The football genes were certainly there for Bowie teenager Darius Fullwood with a dad — U.S. Military Academy graduate Daron Fullwood — and two uncles who played NCAA Division I football. But the rising senior defensive lineman at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Montgomery County is a lot more than innately athletic. He has all the attributes, both the physical and intangible, of an elite-level athlete.
Fullwood said he doesn't just play football, he lives it. Passion for the sport from an early age thanks to his lineage and early exposure to the sport, he said, is evident in his incredibly high football IQ. And he doesn't use his natural talent as an excuse to slack off, either. Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy praised Fullwood's work ethic and commitment to tackling challenges set before him. Fullwood said he's been training twice a day most days over the summer.
All those factors — plus a standout performance at several college football combines this spring — helped lead to offers from nearly 25 top college football programs. Fullwood is a four-star recruit on Rivals.com and ranks sixth in Maryland, according to the website.
On June 28 in a ceremony held at his house, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound strong-side defensive end announced his plans to play at the University of Kentucky in 2015-16. There, he should join rising freshman and former Good Counsel teammate Kobie Walker to compete in the competitive Southeastern Conference.
“I just felt like [Kentucky] was a good fit,” Fullwood said. “I got recruited by other different schools but I've been out to Kentucky three or four times and I felt like I had a good relationship with the staff.”
Though Fullwood is set with his college plans, he said he has every intention of playing like he's still fighting for a scholarship. Despite his status as a high profile Division I recruit, this fall has the potential to be a true breakout year for Fullwood in high school competition after he missed the majority of the 2013 with a broken toe.
“I definitely want to prove a point this year, I'm playing out here like I'm still trying to get an offer,” Fullwood said. “I don't want to play like I'm set. I want to continue to work, continue to be humble and support everyone around me. I don't want to get bigheaded, that's definitely something I don't do.”
Through three games last year, Fullwood tallied eight solo tackles, three for a loss and three sacks for 14 yards lost. Milloy said the Falcons plan to take advantage of Fullwood's speed and one-on-one defensive abilities as they look to rebound from a subpar 2013 campaign — Good Counsel (6-5) failed to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference for the first time in five years and won less than 10 games for the first time since 2003.
“You've got to have a guy who can go get the quarterback, you have to put pressure on the quarterback and you can't rely on blitzing because that puts you a man down,” Milloy said. “[Fullwood's] ability to play one-on-one is a huge asset to Good Counsel. He's just a very good defensive lineman, good at pass rushing.”
Quick feet and reaction time are essential to Fullwood's position, he said, and watching game film of opposing teams to learn their tendencies is vital. But so is the ability to read the game and knowing where to be in a split-second. The latter is where all the games Fullwood has watched with his father and uncles pay off, he said.
“I've been doing football my whole life, I've been watching since I was a little kid, watching all the teams and my dad went to Army so we would go to Army [and] Maryland games,” Fullwood said. “I think watching the games definitely helped me to learn the game quickly at a young age. And that helps a lot going out there, knowing a lot about the game. ... Football is in my blood.”