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When You Are 6-8 1/2, You Have to Stand Out : Arroyo Tackle Rick Fuller Is a Hard Man to Overlook

September 11, 1987|JOHN FAWAZ | Times Staff Writer

Although he plays a position known mainly for its obscurity, offensive tackle Rick Fuller can't help but stand out--literally.

At 6-foot 8 1/2-inches tall, the senior from Arroyo High School in El Monte towers over opponents and teammates.

His height, combined with his 265-pound frame, good strength and hard work make him one of the top offensive lineman around, which is nice, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Fuller is so big because inside there is a defensive lineman and/or shotputter clamoring to get out.

"I played defensive tackle my freshman year," Fuller said. "I really liked that because you get to tackle people.

"You don't have to block people and try and keep them from going somewhere. You just go somewhere and tackle."

This year, he is going to play offensive and defensive tackle. But colleges are looking at him as an offensive lineman. Fuller says any college that offers him a chance to play defense instead of offense will move right to the top of the list, a list that currently includes UCLA, California and Washington.

All this talk of college football could be pointless if Fuller's track career continues to blossom at its current pace.

Last spring, as a junior, he finished fifth in the shotput at the state meet. Next spring he will shoot for the all-time state best of 69-6 1/2 set by Brian Blutreich of Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley in 1985.

A track scholarship will be harder to come by, though, since colleges can offer only 14 track scholarships as compared to 95 football scholarships.

Whether he gets a track scholarship or not, he has made amazing progress from his first exposure to track and field three years ago as a freshman.

"I was introduced to the track coach, and he says you'd be a good shot and discus thrower," Fuller said. "I didn't even know what they were. I though it was like some running event or something."

From that inauspicious start, Fuller has come on to be one of the top shotputters in the state, going from a personal best of 54 feet as a sophomore to 61-8 as a junior. He hopes to go over 70 feet as a senior, while in the discus, his weaker event, he hopes to top 190 feet.

His football career had a similar beginning. He never played in elementary school or junior high school. He might have never played football had he gone to La Salle High School, as originally planned.

"I was going to go to La Salle High School, but then my sister's friends, because of my size, encouraged me to play football, and La Salle doesn't play football," Fuller said.

Fuller took the advice of his sister's friends and ended up at Arroyo.

"As a freshman, he didn't play a lot," Arroyo Coach Don MacKinnon said. "He just worked real hard his sophomore year. He improved his quickness, and learned the game.

"He can be as good as he wants to be."

If it comes down to a choice between football and track, Fuller the offensive lineman would take track, while Fuller the defensive lineman might go the other way. "I like football games, it's just the practice I don't like," Fuller said.

"Because he's undecided, he doesn't have that little something extra you need in a big time program," MacKinnon said. "Once he decides what he wants to do, maybe he will have that edge."

But the debate is academic as far as Fuller is concerned, because he's going to college, no matter what kind of scholarship he gets. If it means four more years as an offensive lineman, along with all the practice that goes along with it, and no more track, he'll do it. All he wants is a degree.

Forget all this sports stuff. Being so tall has given him a taste of the sky, and he wants to see more.

"Before I ever played football, I wanted to be a professional football player," Fuller said. "Now it doesn't interest me.

"I just want to go to college and get my degree. I want to be a pilot."

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