LAKEWOOD RANCH — All Markus Fultz wanted was a chance.
But at 5-foot-3 and 115 pounds, he knew he would be an unlikely addition to the Mustangs’ roster.
Until you factor in his desire, dedication and work ethic.
“If everybody on our team had that kid’s heart — we would be really good,” Lakewood Ranch High coach Shawn Trent said.
In just eight weeks, Fultz has become the most recognizable face in the Mustangs’ locker room. And it’s not only because of the running back’s small frame. He’s never missed a day of practice, and he spends every day working out in the weight room, improving his mental and physical toughness. He simply does what he is asked — and then some.
“It means a lot,” Fultz said of being on the team. “I’m just out here to work hard and have fun, and to be able to come out here and practice with these guys is pretty cool.”
Fultz isn’t your prototypical running back. He’s without a doubt the smallest player on the team, and he doesn’t possess breakout speed or the ability to run over defenders. But Fultz isn’t bothered by his size. It only fuels him to go out and work harder.
It’s a trade-off Fultz took to heart the first day he stepped onto Lakewood’s football field. He knew he would have to work hard, but didn’t realize just how big an impact his commitment and work ethic would have on his teammates.
“Definitely his heart … he tries and even though he might not be the best, he gives the most effort,” left guard Josh Nauman said.
“He’s definitely the smallest in size, but he’s the most dedicated to this team,” center Alec Jones said. “If we all had his heart, then we would go undefeated, win the playoffs and be the state champions.”
Once he decided to come out for the football team as a freshman last year, Fultz made the commitment to give everything he had. Nearly nine months later, Fultz got the chance for which he had been waiting a lifetime — Lakewood’s May 29 spring game.
With the final minutes winding down against Cape Coral Island Coast, a chant slowly began to penetrate the Mustangs’ sideline. Sprinkle! Sprinkle! Sprinkle!
Fultz ran onto the field, took his spot in the backfield and waited for the ball to be snapped.
Clutching the football, Fultz took off and ran full speed ahead — smack dab into the opposing team’s tallest defender. The next few moments are somewhat of a blur for the young running back.
“I started seeing double afterwards, but it was pretty exciting because I got to help the team run out the clock and secure a win,” Fultz said.
But just as quickly as he had gotten hit, Fultz jumped back up and was ready to get back in the game. His teammates were just as eager. Once again the players began to chant his name.
Sprinkle! Sprinkle! Sprinkle!
Lakewood defensive back Doug Snell nicknamed Fultz “Sprinkle” earlier this spring, and the name resonated well with the teammates.
“They started calling me that because I’m the same size as a sprinkle,” Fultz said.
And although some may cringe at the thought of being named after a favorite ice cream topping, Fultz carries the moniker with pride.
“I didn’t really care because I’m just here to work hard,” Fultz said. “Although … everybody knows you once you start having a nickname.”
In the end, as if out of a scene from the movie “Rudy,” Fultz got to go in for the Mustangs’ final play. As time expired, Fultz trotted off the field, clutching the game ball and grinning from ear to ear.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Coats for kids
Knights of Columbus Councils are helping children in need by providing coats to children in their communities through the order’s Coats for Kids program.
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Members and guests of the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club ventured Dec. 4 to Orlando, to view holiday decorations at the Grand Floridian and to have lunch at Downtown Disney.