Sunday, April 26, 2009

Xavier Fulton, OT (Illinois), is Drafted by Tampa Bay

The 155th pick, the 14th Offensive Tackle taken in the 2009 draft.

The Bucs Beat blog from the St. Petersburg Times had this about Xavier:

Bucs select Illinois T Xavier Fulton in 5th round

The Bucs made a surprising move to bolster their offensive line by selecting Illinois left tackle Xavier Fulton.

The 6-foot-4, 302-pound Fulton could be an eventual replacement for Donald Penn, who will become an unrestricted free agent next season. Behind Fulton, Illinois led the Big Ten in offense and pass offense.

Fulton began his career as a right defensive end before tearing a knee ligament. He was granted a medical hardship in 2006 and returned the next season after making the transition to left tackle.

"It was a little difficult at first getting to adjust," Fulton said. "Especially, the biggest thing I had trouble with and so does everybody else learning pass blocking. It's totally different from the way you're taught to play defense. Defense is easy by comparison -- chase the ballcarrier. You can't be wrong if you chase the ballcarrier. Go tackle someone. Whereas on offense, you make one mistake and the entire play is busted and it's lost yardage.

"It was difficult at first but I think I got the hang of it over the past two seasons and I feel pretty comfortable at it now."

UPDATE #1: The Pewter Report, a website devoted to the Bucs, also talked to Xavier:

“This is a dream come true – to be able to play professional football,” Fulton said. “I actually didn’t talk a whole lot with the Bucs before hand. I had a few interviews with them at the Senior Bowl and a few talks with them at the Combine. But other than that, not a lot of communication.”

Fulton is a former defensive lineman who started 10 games before switching in his sophomore year to offensive tackle, where he went on to start all 25 games he played in. Fulton also registered 149 knockdowns/blocks and 15 touchdown-resulting blocks.

“I made the switch in spring ball in 2007,” Fulton said. “It was a little difficult at first getting to adjust. The biggest thing I had trouble with was pass blocking. It’s totally different from the way I was taught defense. Defense compared to playing offensive line is pretty easy. It’s chase the ballcarrier, chase the ballcarrier – you can’t be wrong going to tackle someone. On offense, if you make one mistake the entire play is busted and it’s lost yardage. It was pretty difficult at first, but once I got the hang of it over the past two seasons, I’ve felt pretty comfortable with it."

The 6-foot-4, 301-pound Fulton is considered an incredible athlete. He posted a 5.09 time in the 40-yard dash, 29-inch vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 22 times. In fact, Fulton ranked in the top 10 at his position in five out of the six workouts he participated in at the NFL Combine.

“The only extra hard part of the training was dealing with the shoulder,” Fulton said of his right shoulder injury. “I couldn’t fully bench press what I used to, and it was difficult trying to get the strength back during the training process. After working at it for a couple of months I got the strength back in my shoulders, and I got a pretty good bench press number. A lot of my good numbers I put up was from training with Kurt Hester at D-One in Nashville. He taught me a lot of good techniques, a lot of tips that helped with the numbers.”

Despite being hindered the right shoulder ailment as a senior that required surgery in February, Fulton started 12 games for Illinois and earned the Bruce Capel Award for displaying the most courage, dedication and accomplishment.

Although he played left tackle at Illinois, Fulton, who was a member of the North team at Senior Bowl, has the size, power and athletic ability to be a swing tackle for the Buccaneers.

“I’m a pretty athletic guy," said Fulton. "I’m very fast. I like to get up to the next level very quickly. If you get your linemen on the second or third level, obviously you have done something pretty well and usually it’s a big yardage gain.”

Fulton joins Donald Penn, Jeremy Trueblood, James Lee and Julius Wilson in Tampa Bay’s stable of offensive tackles. He said he hopes to one day become a starting tackle for the Buccaneers.

“I think that is the attitude that you have to have if you are going to last long or at all at this level,” said Fulton. “I know I’m going to have to compete. There are men who look at this as a way to feed their family. Obviously, I’m a 23-year-old kid coming in just trying to learn everything. I’m going in with the aspect that I’m going to learn and be a much better offensive lineman, and hopefully compete for a position.”

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Xavier Fulton's Combine Workouts

can be seen here. Don't know why I can't embed the video here.

Thornton standout Tim Jamison's (Michigan) Combine Workouts can be seen here. Good luck to both southsiders this weekend!

UPDATE #1: Three Offensive Tackles go in the first 8 picks. Wow.

UPDATE #2: Michael Oher makes it four in the first.

UPDATE #3: The sequence of events necessary to see Xavier drafted in the second round did not unfold. There was no run on Offensive Tackles in the first two rounds, and only Oakland seemed to value prospects dramatically different from the mock draft boards. Both Xavier and Tim should go sometime on Sunday.

Opening Day

Spring must be here!

Hope it's not a washout:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flossmoor's X-Man wants a Saturday call

2009 has seen plenty of buzz around Flossmoor's Xavier Fulton, affectionately known as the X-man around here, who has made a solid commitment to moving to the next level and playing on Sundays in the NFL. His pure athleticism and raw talent even have some projecting Fulton to go as high as the second round.

Fulton came out of Homewood-Flossmoor High -- where he played both ways -- to go to the Fighting Illini. He was recruited as a defensive end, but switched to offensive tackle in 2007. An All Big Ten Offensive Linemen in both 2007 and 2008, Fulton was invited to the Senior Bowl. After a rough week of practice where he played both tackle positions, Xavier was named one of the Top 10 2009 Senior Bowl Performances for his play in the game:

Got called for a questionable holding call, but I thought he moved better than any OT in the game. He can really get downfield and make some things happen. I think this kid is a serious sleeper because of his athleticism. Could be a better pro than college player.

Graduating in December (Xavier was a fifth year senior), he spent 2009 preparing for the draft at D1 Sports Training. Fulton was "impressive" at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, finishing "among the top performers from the offensive linemen group who worked out for the over 600 NFL coaches, general managers and scouts. His 40-yard dash time, broad jump and three-cone drill performance ranked in the top-3 on the offensive line." Randall Weida observed:

Xavier Fulton had a productive NFL Combine. He ran a 5.04 second 40 yard dash which was one of the best times for a lineman. He also showed good technique during position drills and coaches are encouraged by the fact he's only been playing tackle for two seasons. Fulton is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme and should be taken by the mid third round of this years draft.

Sports Illustrated named Fulton as one of the top "players who stood out and improved their draft stock."

Fulton was impressive from the start of the combine as he completed 27 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press Friday, then ran his 40 in a time of 4.91 seconds on both tries. He later looked terrific in position drills. Fulton has been dealing with a shoulder injury since tearing a labrum in the middle of the season. He could have very easily bowed out of performing at the combine but decided to give it a go. Fulton will have surgery to repair the injury next week.

One analyst said, "No one player improved his draft stock more at the combine than this man."

Predictions for where Xavier will go in the draft are all over the map. Some hope that his injury and surgery will push him down to the later rounds (making him a "steal" for some team), but the consensus seems to be that his tremendous upside will find Fulton drafter sooner rather than later. With four offensive tackles thought to go off the board in the first round, the prospect of Xavier getting a Saturday afternoon call isn't that absurd. The NFL site summarizes:

Positives: Naturally large man with the frame to add at least an additional 10-15 pounds without a significant loss of quickness. ... Raw, but possesses rare tools. ... Lacks consistency with his initial quickness off the snap, but gets excellent depth in his kick slide to protect the edge as a pass rusher. ... Natural knee bender who plays with balance. ... Still learning to use his hands, but flashes explosiveness in his hand punch and the ability to turn and sustain. ... Athletic enough to block on the move. ... Hustles to the second and even third level. ... Only beginning to scratch the surface of his talent after spending the first three years of his career at defensive tackle.

Negatives: Raw. ... Made the transition to the offensive line in 2007 and was surrounded by experienced line mates and ultra-athletic skill position players, aiding in his development. ... Too often late off the snap for a player of his athleticism. ... Relies on athleticism, rather than technique, to control his man and can be walked back to the quarterback when he plays too high, exposing his chest. ... Flashes a good initial pop in run blocking, but is not a masher. ... Good athleticism, but can get out of control blocking on the move, allowing his assignment to evade him. Legitimate durability concern: Torn ACL ended his 2005 season prematurely and forced Fulton to take a medical redshirt for the '06 season. ... Struggled with a shoulder sprain throughout the second half of the 2008 season.

It adds: "Scouts want to see him improve his technique and show strength as a run blocker."

Fulton is being called the seventh or eighth best offensive tackle, although some teams might convert him to guard. Those who think he might go as high as the second round would agree:

He is similar to 2008 first round pick Duane Brown in that he is a small zone blocking tackle, who is new to the position. Both were relatively inexperienced, but Fulton could be an even better prospect. He has tremendous speed and athleticism for an offensive lineman and loves to get out into the open field and lay hits on opposing linebackers in the run game. Fulton is still raw, so he occasionally doesn't pick up more complex blitzes and stunts. He does however, have the athleticism to recover on many of those plays. He is strong enough to withstand the bull rush of defensive ends, and quick enough to stay in front of speed rushers. His speed and size make him an ideal fit in a zone-blocking scheme. Fulton will need to show teams he has the strength to block elite ends in the NFL. Because he isn't a good fit for every team's system, he may not get drafted until the late third or early fourth round.

As such, Xavier's been named one of the 40 Players To Look Out For in the 2009 NFL Draft, in part because "he can play multiple positions on the line." Xavier has been brought in by several NFL teams, including the New York Jets.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Encouraging Community Involvement -- but not really meaning it

As long as I have lived in Flossmoor -- going on a decade now -- Roger Molski has been trying to silence me. Not that I cared. To be honest, Molski wasn't much of a concern. In 2002, I was involved in the campaigns of four challengers running for the U.S. Senate (all of whom are now in the Senate), in 2004 I was involved in the presidential campaign and in 2006, I began to be involved in Barack Obama's long-shot run for the presidency. So in the scheme of things, Roger Molski wasn't that big a deal. But that's not the point.

As long as I've lived in Flossmoor, I've listened to Roger Molski (and others) preach about people getting involved in their community, in coming to village council meetings and "making Flossmoor better." The irony shouldn't be lost on anybody.

I believe that the Molskis of the world do want their neighbors to get involved in their local communities, but we can't be surprised that what they really mean is for us to get involved as their allies.

There are very few reasons why I've spoken up against Roger Molski since I moved here in 2000. The most common reason would have been when he was wrong. And, in my experience, Molski is wrong a lot. The great big empty lot right behind our condos (the Molskis and mine) proves the point. In May 2005, I took my concerns to the village meeting, starting with how it would negatively impact our condo units and ending with the fact that the banks I talked to considered Bruti a risky (or risk-taking?) developer, which Roger dismissed with a wave of his hand. "He's my friend," Roger said to me.

In other words, trust me.

If it isn't obvious, asking people to trust their representatives in government is antithetical to both good government and getting people involved in their community. That's one of the lessons we should take away from Molski's years of service to Flossmoor: if you want people involved, then you have to be able to withstand their criticism when they don't agree with you. It's nothing personal. It's just government (or, without the Godfather reference, it's the process).

I started this particular blog because a friend of mine had been doing a spectacular job covering his local community. Like Flossmoor, where he lived was basically ignored by the major media. His blog is a lot more successful and a lot more thorough than this one. I don't spend nearly as much time on this as he does. It is merely a coincidence that so much focus has been paid to Roger Molski.

About six months ago, Molski changed his routine (or pattern). He no longer walked his dog everyday. He started driving into the parking lot very early in the morning (when his car was conveniently missing at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning). I asked him, when we talked about my mother-in-law, if his dog had died. I was told it hadn't.

So I started to write about our missing mayor. He wasn't really missing, it seemed to me, he was just commuting. But understanding political messaging as I do, I knew that calling Molski "our missing mayor" would be easier to understand that calling him a commuting mayor. People get that.

I didn't realize that candidates had used his home in the city against him before, but I also didn't care. I wanted to highlight the really bad decisions that Roger Molski has made for Flossmoor -- and the fact that we wasn't a full-time resident of Flossmoor went a long way in explaining his bad decisions. His daughter claims that Molski really loves Flossmoor, and I wouldn't dispute that. I also know that no parent tells their kids everything. But the problem wasn't that he cared about the village, it was what he was doing to the village.

I also didn't believe that Molski would run again. Given his new pattern, I expected him to retire. To be honest, I was shocked when he filed to run for re-election.

I write about what goes on in our community because people should know more about that. As a private citizen, which Roger Molski converts to in May, recording his commutes to the village would be gossip. But as a public official, as mayor, it is something that people had a right to know.

If the village government was more transparent, more open, more inviting, there would be no need to write these kinds of things. It hasn't been, and I've witnessed Roger Molski using his insider knowledge of village government as a bludgeon against people. If our new mayor -- or the trustees -- try to do that, I'll stand up against them, as well.

There's a lot to be done here in Flossmoor. We need to protect the unique charm that defines this village -- which means we have to do something about the blight that Molski brought to Flossmoor (by way of recruiting "his friend" to come here). We have to make sure that the new CVS, across the street from H-F, doesn't sell alcohol. Instead of reacting -- as Molski was inclined to do -- we need to be proactive. Anticipate problems. Prepare for them. Encourage the rest of the village to be involved in their solution.

I am very hopeful for Paul Braun's term as mayor. He, too, loves Flossmoor. He loves it so much that it is his only residence. He would never tell anyone, especially a son, "there is no future in Flossmoor." He will work hard to protect Flossmoor's charm and value because it's the only place he has to think about. That's important. He's fully invested in our future.

Paul Braun promised that change was coming to Flossmoor. It was a big, ambitious promise. Now we wait, and watch. And hope for better things to come. Electing Braun was the first step. But it was only the first step...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Flossmoor Finally Gets a Real Mayor

Imagine that! Flossmoor's mayor will once again live in the Village of Flossmoor. Happy Days are Here!

Paul Braun promised that Change was coming to Flossmoor, and -- tonight -- he made good on his promise:

Paul S. Braun 1,080 55.36%
Roger G. Molski 871 44.64%

Braun won doing it his way, taking the high road, laying out a solid vision for Flossmoor's future and knocking on the door of every house in the village. When I mentioned to Braun that not all those households would have voters in them, he waved off my concern. They were stakeholders in the village living there, he told me, and they deserved the same attention.

What a profoundly refreshing attitude. I've been told by numerous residents that Molski has tried to bully residents for years, so Braun's inclusive and inviting attitude may take a little getting used to.

Congratulations, Mayor Braun! The village eagerly awaits the fresh start that you represent in Flossmoor government.

Note to the Trustees: I don't know what happens now that Paul Braun has been elected mayor, but if you get to appoint his replacement as Village Trustee, I'd urge you to appoint Pam Lessner. Those of us who attended the League of Women Voters forum know that we had four good candidates running for Trustee. She deserves to be appointed -- and I suspect she won't go away if she's not. We'll be paying attention...