Small Town Hero Fugate Obscure No More

They used to say college football recruiters would "beat the bushes" looking for talent. Fifty years ago, many top athletes went unnoticed. With the advent of the internet, fewer players fall through the cracks. But a player like Channing Fugate, a running back from a small town in the hills of Kentucky, can still be unknown to many schools.

Illinois assistant coach Kurt Beathard found Channing Fugate running over and around opponents for Breathitt County High School in Jackson, Kentucky, and he liked what he saw. Fugate admits his town is small and hard to locate.

"We have about 600-700 kids in our school. I don't know how many people's in Jackson, but it's not very big. It's not easy for coaches to get to a small town like I have."

He is surprised but pleased that Beathard and coaches from several other schools have contacted him.

"Going to the state championships helped a lot. We didn't win, but I guess a lot of coaches saw me there. I've been getting film out, just trying to get people to notice me."

The Illini have made a big early push for Fugate, who responded by visiting campus for a spring practice weekend. He was impressed.

"It went real good. I loved it down there."

The 6'-2", 225 pounder described his unofficial visit.

"Friday night, I went to watch the practice. After that, we met up with Coach Beathard. He took us around to see the facilities. Then Saturday morning, they let me watch a film session and took me to the offensive meetings. Then we went and watched them scrimmage. Then we talked to the head coach before we had to leave to go to Purdue."

Fugate listed the schools he has visited so far.

"Besides Purdue, I went to Louisville for a Junior Day and WKU (Western Kentucky) for a Junior Day."

He may attend a summer camp or two, but he is not certain of that as yet.

"I might attend a Mackey camp in June, but I'm not for sure yet. I don't know if I'm gonna go to any camps or not."

Illinois is definitely in a leadership position with Fugate, but that might change if certain schools contacted him.

"I think it would be cool if Tennessee or somebody like Penn State or Ohio State contacted me. They're pretty close and are good programs."

Fugate describes his running style.

"I'm a big back, and I can run inside or outside. I've got the size to run inside. If I can't run inside, I've got the speed to run outside. I ran a 4.6 forty yard dash two weeks ago.

"On defense, I play strong safety and linebacker. I like running back."

He feels he can adapt his style to any college offense.

"My high school runs a spread zone offense. I guess I could run that in college, but with everybody passing and stuff, I can do that too."

He is undecided as to when he might commit to a college.

"I was thinking about waiting until after my senior season, but I might pick a place before the season if I think it will be too much pressure for my senior season. Right now, I'll probably play my senior season to see who's interested after that."

Fugate has definite plans for when his football career is finished.

"I want to be a chiropractor. In the first four years, you major in like Biology or Chemistry. You can pretty much go anywhere for the first four years."

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