PULLMAN – Asking John Fullington to say something negative about Washington State is roughly akin to asking Tommy Lasorda to say something bad about the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In other words, it ain’t gonna happen. No way, no how.
“I love the campus and the people and the small-town atmosphere,” says Fullington, WSU’s junior left tackle out of North Mason High School.
On the eve of Washington State’s season opener at Brigham Young, with a national television audience set to watch offensive guru Mike Leach make his WSU coaching debut, Fullington might be even more enthusiastic and optimistic than usual.
“We’ve already improved so much,” he said. “I just think it’s going to happen.”
“It,” Fullington says, is the first winning season and bowl appearance for the Cougars since 2003.
“I feel our confidence is up,” he said. “I feel we’re tougher as people. We can get on each other and help each other out.
“We’ve come a long way from last year. The new offense – Coach Leach is an amazing coach. I mean, 10 bowls in 10 years (as coach at Texas Tech).
“He’s brought his knowledge to the team. I just think with our athletic ability, we can definitely have a great year.”
Fullington, who did not redshirt, has played in all 24 WSU games the past two seasons. Only six times has he left the field a winner, and even Fullington hedges a bit when asked if he would have come to WSU if he had known the team would struggle so badly.
“Mmmm. That’s tough, man,” the soft-spoken, ever-polite big man said. “I don’t know.”
When pressed, Fullington said, “If on my (campus recruiting) visit they said, ‘Hey, you’re going to lose every year that you’re here, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it,’ then I probably wouldn’t have come here.”
Fullington said the thought of transferring has never crossed his mind.
“No,” he said firmly. “Just because I committed here.
“I got myself in here to hopefully change the atmosphere and everything, and that’s what we’re going to do, so I wasn’t just going to quit.”
Fullington grudgingly admits he was a Washington Huskies fan growing up in Belfair, even though his extended family is a mix of Huskies and Cougars fans, and his maternal grandparents are longtime Pullman residents. Washington recruited Fullington, but he said the Huskies never had a chance once the Cougars pursued him.
“I don’t like the (big) city and all that stuff,” said Fullington, a kinesiology major who hopes to play in the NFL. “I definitely turned into a Cougar and fell in love with it here.”
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Fullington moved back to the demanding left tackle spot this year after being forced to start there in the second half of his freshman season. In 2011, Fullerton started every game at left guard and was named honorable mention all-Pacific-10 Conference.
“John’s a great kid,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “Since Day One, he’s been a super kid. Very high character. Very hard worker.
“I can’t say enough good things about him.”
That might change if Fullington is part of a WSU offensive line that finishes in the bottom five nationally in quarterback sacks allowed for the fifth consecutive year. Fullington is confident that streak will come to an end.
“We put the work in and meshed more as a group,” he said. “We’ve got each other’s backs.
“We’re willing to fight for each other, but we’re also willing to get on each other and fix things.
“We’ve gotten stronger and bigger, and we know the offense really well.”
Now that Fullington knows the offense, he can’t wait to get to know about winning.
Getting to know john Fullington
Favorite movie: “Dumb and Dumber.”
Favorite actor: Adam Sandler.
Favorite band: Blink-182.
Funniest teammate: Wade Jacobson.
Favorite pro sports team growing up: Seattle Seahawks.
Career goal: Play in the NFL.
Post-football plans: Raise a family in his hometown of Belfair while working as a firefighter as well as an assistant football and basketball coach at his alma mater, North Mason High School.