2019 NFL Draft: Travis Fulgham talks walking on at Old Dominion and preparing to turn heads at the NFL combine
Fulgham caught touchdown passes in nine straight games last season for ODU
Travis Fulgham didn't even have a scholarship when he arrived at Old Dominion, but that lasted a week. In the four years since, he's gone from six receptions as a freshman to a 1,000-yard season in 2018 when he had five 100-plus-yard games (including nine catches for 188 yards against Virginia Tech and 10 catches for 215 yards against Middle Tennessee State), and caught touchdowns in nine straight games.
He followed up an impressive '18 campaign with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in January. Next up: Impressing at the NFL combine next week in Indianapolis, where Fulgham plans to show that, at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he is one of the most complete draft-eligible receivers.
We recently spoke to Fulgham about his his college career, his Senior Bowl experience, and his expectations for the combine. We spoke separately to John Allen, Fulgham's wide receivers coach at ODU, and we've included his comments below.
Q: You were a walk-on at Old Dominion -- did you have scholarship offers from any other school?
Travis Fulgham: No sir. I had some Division II looks and no Division I offers. ... It was about a week [into practice before ODU offered me a scholarship].
Q: ODU got off to a slow start in 2018, losing the first three games, and you had just five catches and no touchdowns. Why the slow start?
Fulgham: The first couple of games we were just finding out identify as an offense. And we changed up the scheme going into Virginia Tech, trying to air out the ball a little more, and that definitely worked for us.
Q: Game No. 4 was against Virginia Tech and you guys beat them, 49-35, and you had nine catches for 188 yards and a touchdown. How did that come together after the 0-3 start?
Fulgham: My quarterback, Blake LaRussa, was just giving me an opportunity to go out there and make plays. He was playing out of his mind that game. He also threw for  yards to another of our receivers (Jonathan Duhart) and I think he had about 500 yards passing that game (495) -- it was just an outstanding performance.
Coach Allen: Travis gives the quarterback a big catch radius. He's so long, he's athletic -- you don't have to be perfect with throws for Travis to make a catch. You look at the FAU game, he made an unbelievable high-point catch -- most guys don't get it, he makes a catch on the side pocket high above the defender. Against Middle Tennessee, he gets loose down the sideline on a 2-on-1 fast break vertical route and the ball is high and back shoulder and he flips his hips, goes up high and makes the catch, keeps himself in-bounds and scores a touchdown.
There's a comfort zone with Travis that I think quarterbacks will enjoy because they don't have to be perfect. And he's going to be where he needs to be. He's going to run tight routes, even with his size he can get in and out of breaks better than most people that are smaller than him. You put those two things together and it makes the quarterback very comfortable. And we talk about that in our room all the time, about putting quarterbacks in the comfort zone and he does that.
Q: We watched the Marshall game -- you only had three catches for 54 yards but you had a great touchdown grab. Can you walk us through that?
Fulgham: [The Marshall cornerback] was a pretty good player and he was playing me outside most of the game so I worked him with a slow release -- I had to play with my feet a little bit and try to slip on the outside to open up space to get both my feet in bounds. I had to shield him off a little bit.
Q: You're 6-foot-3, 215 and lined up mostly on the outside in college. NFL teams are going to want to know if you can run every route.
Fulgham: Absolutely [I can]. No doubt. I love having a variety of routes and I feel like I can run them all [from inside or outside].
Allen: Yes, he can (run every route), absolutely. And we did both with him this year. He played mostly outside but we we able to get matchups with him in the slot in different sets, whether it be our 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) or 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end). But he was able to get inside and get one-one-one matchups on safeties and we did that at least once or twice a game.
He can run every route, there's no question. Especially when you're talking about running inside routes because he's a bigger target, and he's smooth and he can negotiate coverage because he can tight-turn. He's really going to be exceptional there. But he was really able to do that more this year than probably any other year.
Q: How was your Senior Bowl experience, going up against great players from some of the biggest programs in the country?
Fulgham: Just getting the invite was definitely an honor. ... I wish I could've done a little better but I think I did what I needed to do.
Q: What did scouts tell you they wanted to see from you heading into Senior Bowl week?
Fulgham: They just wanted to make sure I could compete with the big guys -- the guys from the big programs, compete against the best.
Q: Who was the best defensive back you faced at the Senior Bowl?
Fulgham: It would have to be Lonnie Johnson, the cornerback from Kentucky. He's definitely a bigger corner than I had ever faced. I had to adjust on some of my routes going against him. And definitely someone like Isaiah Johnson from the University of Houston was one of the better corners [at the Senior Bowl].
Allen: Typically, guys like Travis and Duhart are going against DBs who are anywhere from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot. Rarely do they see a 6-foot-2 guy or 6-foot-3 guy across from them. I remember the kid from Kentucky -- I had a chance to go down and watch Travis at the Senior Bowl and watched him go at it. You know, it was different for him. I know the first day I had a conversation with him about that. But what you have to remember is, the things that you learned technique-wise, and the things you're able to put in your toolbox, you have to be able to go back into to be successful against different guys.
Sometimes, unfortunately, they don't get to see that kind of size, so they get used to sometimes overpowering guys, being able to run away from guys, being able to get position and use their physicality and their size to their advantage. And they have to remember, you have to put it all together because you're going to have some dudes -- especially at the next level -- that are going to look you dead in the eye. So now you have to be a complete receiver. And you have to pull those things you have in your toolbox out and compete.
Q: Are there NFL players you watch now and try to pattern your game after?
Fulgham: I like watching DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald.
Q: Your teammate, edge rusher Oshane Ximines, has been on folks' radar for some time now. He was with you at the Senior Bowl -- what have seen practicing and playing alongside him day in and day out?
Fulgham: He's definitely a dog. You can always count on Oshane to make a big play -- either a sack, strip fumble, he even caught a pick this year -- so there's nothing that man can't do.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish at the combine?
Fulgham: Hopefully I'll be known as one of the best athletes there. ... [I'm] trying to get that 4.4., sir (in the 40). That's the goal.
Allen: My thing with Travis, from Day 1, was just to challenge him to stay consistent and to stay focused. And I think I kept that consistent message throughout the entire year. He has so much ability, he's so natural with a lot of things, a tendency for young guys is to get complacent. I wanted to make sure I challenged him weekly on the things we needed to do, on the things he could continue to do better, making sure that our preparation was on point each and every week, that we understood the type of defenders that we were going to go against that week, and try to keep him focused on what that process was each week and how he needed to get himself in position to be able to make plays on Saturdays.
Q: What do you think you need to work on?
Fulgham: Probably just my overall knowledge of the game -- every aspect of being a wide receiver. Even though I'm known as a good blocker I'd like to get better at that, running routes ... everything.
Allen: (Laughing) Trav is strong, now. He's deceptive but once he gets his hands on you, you're going for a ride. He did an outstanding job on the perimeter blocking and it shows up on film in quite a few games. The Charlotte game he took a kid from the 5-yard line and almost put him into the building. And that's not an over-exaggeration. It's on film. He's very willing to make sure that as an offense, we can click and execute entirely and not just in the pass game.
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