Eagles WR Travis Fulgham’s globe-trotting, odds-defying rise to the NFL

The ball left quarterback Carson Wentz‘s hand and commenced crusing down the left sideline late within the Philadelphia Eagles‘ Week 4 matchup in opposition to the San Francisco 49ers, and Alonzo Fulgham mentioned that is when he stopped respiration.

A Boston native, he is the form of rabid sports activities fan who used to observe the Celtics and New England Patriots with the lights off, by himself, when a recreation was coming all the way down to the wire. Now right here he was, watching his son, Travis Fulgham, streak down the sector, chasing after a go that might resolve the sport.

“I did not begin respiration till he caught it,” Alonzo mentioned. “When he did his Fred Astaire [touchdown celebration] down the sideline, I simply went berserk. …I am simply pleased they did not name 911 on me. That is how loud it was.”

An identical scene was transpiring in Washington, about 40 miles southeast of Alonzo’s Northern Virginia residence, the place Travis’ mom, Celeste, and sister Jacqueline have been watching from Jacqueline’s condo. The home windows have been open and all of the yelling startled the neighbors till they realized they have been cheers.

“I misplaced my voice,” Celeste mentioned. “I nonetheless haven’t got my voice again absolutely.”

“Oh my God,” Alonzo added. “Speak about a storybook ending for this child, ?”

Or, possibly it was only the start. Fulgham adopted that game-winning TD seize in opposition to the Niners with a 10-catch, 152-yard performance in opposition to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday that has town of Philadelphia buzzing and NFL devotees scrambling to be taught his story.

What they’re discovering is that it is in contrast to many others.

Travis, 25, got here late to soccer as a result of soccer wasn’t out there to him when he was a boy. With each of his mother and father within the International Service, he spent a lot of his younger life abroad, traversing from Jordan to Egypt to South Africa to India. He performed cricket and soccer and basketball and he swam, but it surely wasn’t till he returned to the US for highschool that he was launched to soccer on the age of 16.

An identical sequence has repeated within the years since, as he climbed the ranks from highschool to Outdated Dominion, the place he was a walk-on, to the NFL, the place he is on his third staff lower than two years into his professional profession: Travis is available in beneath the radar, grows all of a sudden, then flashes brightly and seemingly out of nowhere.

It has occurred once more, this time on the sport’s greatest stage, fueling a rising thought that the Eagles may need discovered themselves a gem.

“He confirmed final week that it was no fluke. He is a big-time participant,” Wentz mentioned. “We have seen what he is carried out in apply now for some time and the way he is form of come alongside inside our offense and our system. With the accidents and all the things going round, he was the subsequent man up and we regarded on the market and mentioned, ‘We’re assured on this man to get it carried out’ and he is been making play after play. I feel he has a brilliant future forward of him.”

A global lifestyle

Travis acquired his first diplomatic passport when he was 6 months outdated. Celeste nonetheless laughs on the reminiscence of sitting him on her lap and making an attempt to get him to look towards the digicam for a usable take.

She and Alonzo met via the Peace Corps. A “scorching, steamy romance” ensued, Celeste mentioned, they usually married months later. However their story reads extra like an motion novel. Within the late Nineteen Eighties, they moved to Swaziland in South Africa in the course of the remaining years of apartheid. Alonzo then joined the US Company for Worldwide Improvement (USAID), changing into the primary African-American appearing administrator within the company’s historical past. He labored alongside the navy in Afghanistan in an effort to assist reconstruct a rustic that had been remoted for a quarter-century.

Celeste additionally joined the USAID. Working from Jordan, she directed the contracting workplace for Iraq in the course of the peak of the Iraq Struggle. Previous to that, she was the director of the contracting workplace in South Africa that began the Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Reduction — the flagship HIV/AIDS program for the U.S. authorities internationally, which is credited with saving thousands and thousands of lives.

Alonzo and Celeste divorced following their task in Jordan. Travis was about 2 years outdated on the time. Alonzo went to Japanese Europe, whereas Celeste and the youngsters moved to Egypt, then South Africa, again to Jordan and eventually, India. In the course of the summers, Travis and Jacqueline would go wherever Alonzo was posted, together with Serbia, Montenegro, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

“One of many methods it formed him is he truly thought that was the norm,” Celeste mentioned of Travis’ world-touring upbringing. “He was transferring to totally different international locations with totally different religions with totally different languages, completely totally different cultures. And he did not know in any other case.”

Adapting to the soccer tradition

Travis returned to the US for his highschool years to give attention to lecturers and athletics. He lived with Alonzo in Virginia whereas attending Massanutten Navy Academy. His ardour was basketball, however he was approached to play soccer by one of many coaches throughout LSAT prep. Alonzo objected out of concern for Travis’ well being, however whereas Alonzo was away on a visit abroad, Celeste signed the permission slip.

“So she is accountable for Travis being the star he’s as we speak,” Alonzo mentioned with fun.

Travis made all-state as a large receiver his first 12 months. But it surely was a small, impartial college with not a lot of a soccer repute. To have an opportunity to make it to the subsequent stage, he transferred to Broad Run, a public highschool in Ashburn, Virginia, the place he rapidly earned a beginning function.

With such little data out there to varsities given his truncated highschool profession, Travis did not obtain any scholarship provides. So he walked on at Outdated Dominion and earned a scholarship by the autumn. He confirmed nice promise, catching eight touchdowns his redshirt sophomore season, but it surely wasn’t till he was a senior that all of it clicked into gear, and he erupted for 63 catches, 1,083 yards (17.2 avg.) and 9 scores.

“Being so cultured and being round so many alternative issues that I do know lots of children his age hadn’t been round, I feel it took him a while to really discover himself as a soccer participant,” mentioned John Allen, Travis’ large receivers coach at Outdated Dominion.

“Numerous occasions you hear the tales concerning the younger man that did not come from something, needed to actually pull himself up, actually needed to work themselves out of conditions with a single guardian residence. Travis did not have any of that. Actually, Travis had the world within the palm of his palms if he needed to. And to seek out himself as a soccer participant, to seek out the drive and the eagerness that he had inside, to lastly convey that out and present those that, ‘Yo, soccer is absolutely necessary to me. I actually love this recreation,’ that is what was enjoyable to observe. And I feel that is what he discovered inside himself.”

‘A protracted 12 months’ rewarded

The Eagles had a mid-round grade on the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Fulgham coming into the 2019 NFL draft, coach Doug Pederson mentioned, however with 5 general picks that 12 months, the celebrities did not align. He was taken as an alternative by the Detroit Lions within the sixth spherical.

Celeste hosted a small get-together on the third day of the draft. Travis went upstairs to play Xbox to distract himself. That is when he acquired the decision from Lions basic supervisor Bob Quinn, unbeknownst to the remainder of the household.

“He got here downstairs and he got here across the bottom of my chair and gave me this bear hug from behind,” Celeste mentioned. “And I simply thought it was a kind of, like, ‘It is a lengthy day.’ We simply began the sixth spherical. I reached round and patted him and proper as I did that, his face got here on the display. We misplaced our minds!”

However, with the Lions loaded at receiver — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola every had over 60 catches that season — Travis was waived that September and positioned on the Lions’ apply squad. After a quick call-up later in the course of the 2019 season, he was waived once more in August 2020. The Green Bay Packers claimed him, solely to launch him 9 days later. Seven of these 9 days have been spent in a resort away from the staff in following the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

The Eagles grabbed him off waivers on Aug. 20 then waived him Sept. 3, marking the third time he had been lower that summer time.

“It is undoubtedly been a protracted 12 months for me, lengthy offseason,” Fulgham mentioned. “However I got here right here to Philly they usually gave me a possibility.”

Signed to Philadelphia’s apply squad, he began opening eyes throughout coaching camp.

“From his first week coming into camp I’d actually sit on the sideline — I did not even know he got here from Detroit till I used to be speaking to [Darius] Slay in the future — and I used to be like, ‘Bro, this No. 13 … this dude proper right here, he at all times catches the ball. And each time he catches it, he is off the bottom,'” Eagles defensive again Jalen Mills mentioned. “Whether or not it was digs, out-routes, go balls, he was catching it on the highest level and that is exhausting to cowl.”

With 4 of the unique prime 5 receivers injured, he was promoted to the Eagles’ energetic roster previous to the San Francisco game on Oct. 3, and has been setting off fireworks ever since.

“Clearly, Travis has made a case to proceed to play and play at a excessive stage,” Pederson mentioned.

With restricted followers allowed within the stands for final week’s Eagles-Steelers matchup, Alonzo and Celeste acquired to observe Travis’ breakout recreation in individual. As soon as once more, they have been unable to comprise themselves.

“It is nice that nobody is aware of who I’m,” Celeste mentioned, “as a result of it was a kind of conditions like, ‘That is Travis Fulgham’s mother? Oh my god, she has misplaced her thoughts.'”

“It was nice, man. It was poetic,” added Alonzo. “All I can say is he is doing what he expects himself to do. He is at all times believed that he belonged on the market. I feel he confirmed the entire league on Sunday that he is somebody to concentrate to.”

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