Lockport's David Fluellen makes most of personal homecoming
AMHERST - Three weeks ago, David Fluellen played a big role as the Toledo Rockets won their annual homecoming game. Last Saturday, he was even better in his personal homecoming.
Playing in his first game at UB Stadium, the graduate of Lockport High rushed for a career-best 228 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in Toledo's 25-20 win over the UB Bulls.
In the process, Fluellen topped the 1,000-yard mark just nine games into a season in which the Rockets have posted an 8-1 record. He now has 1,181 yards and is averaging 131.2 per game, the sixth-highest figure in the nation among Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players.
Fluellen's five straight 100-yard games have been a major factor not only in Toledo's wins, but also in the program's increased consideration in the weekly AP poll voting: the Rockets fell just 15 votes shy of being ranked this week.
The junior's performance against Buffalo, a team who also recruited him, led Toledo's first-year coach, Matt Campbell, to describe Fluellen as "one of the best backs in the country right now."
The 6-foot, 215-pound halfback took a little time to get things going against the Bulls. He gained 50 yards on 12 carries in a humdrum first half, and Toledo trailed 14-7 at the break.
The second half was a revelation. Fluellen capped a 73-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring rush to trim UB's lead to 14-13, then took command by consuming all 86 yards on four rushes on the Rockets' next possession and ending the trek with a one-yard plunge to provide Toledo with the lead for good.
"It was exciting," Fluellen admitted. "You take a moment when everything's clicking and (you think) it was exactly what I pictured my homecoming to be. The first half I started off a little shaky, but in the third quarter we got things rolling."
That's an understatement. In the third quarter alone, Fluellen rushed for 144 yards on 12 carries, making some observers believe that he should declare eligibility for next spring's NFL draft. The affable Fluellen deflected that topic.
"I've never thought about that," he said. "The only thing I'm thinking about is our next opponent and each step to get to the MAC (Mid-American Conference) Championship."
When pressed, Fluellen admitted to just a slight glimmer of looking to the next level.
"It's getting closer, but I try to block that out," he said. "I have tunnel vision and take care of the things I can take care of now. Let
the rest come into play."
During his first two seasons with Toledo, Fluellen was strictly a role player, gaining 224 and 493 yards. He was listed as the top running back on the team's pre-season depth chart, but still will not admit that his output so far has exceeded his expectations.
"I have a high standard for myself," he explained. "I'll always want to do better than people think so I can do just to prove them wrong."
When reminded how he doesn't have a whole lot to prove anymore, Fluellen was quick to point out his targets.
"The pre-season all-MAC lists, I wasn't on them, not second team or third team, anything," he said. "(My goal was) to try to prove all those guys wrong (and show that) I can be one of the top guys."
It's unclear what sort of milestones Fluellen will still reach this season, or who will remain skeptical of his achievements. Suffice to say, he's turned many more heads than he did during his high school days in Lockport, and it's quite possible that his next homecoming will occur in a certain stadium located in Orchard Park.