CSU’s latest walk ons: A labor of love for the game

Mack Beaulieu

Listening to the latest players to receive a walk-on scholarship for Colorado State University, it becomes clear the values coaches want in a walk-on are in offensive lineman Barry Wesley and kick returner Brenden Fulton. Their home life and love of the game got them there.

Colorado State WR Brenden Fulton makes a catch during the 11th Spring Practice on April 11, 2017. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

In Wesley and Fulton’s eyes, to be a successful college walk on you need a love of the game more than anything else.

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“No situation can prepare you for college athletics,” Wesley said.

Fulton grew up in a home where he was always steadied. His parents, John and Shana Fulton, taught at Fulton’s schools growing up. Wesley’s family was made complete by his stepfather, Dave Luedke, when he was ten. Both consider their male role models as a big part of why they’re still here.

“Coming out of high school with zero offers and opportunities to walk on, me and my Dad had a talk,” Fulton said. “He said, ‘We’re not quitters in our family’ … He said the first year as a new walk on is always the hardest year, so if you can get past that first year, it will be more smooth sailing.”

Wesley’s relationship with his birth father wasn’t always great in comparison, when Luedke came into his life, Wesley had someone to look up to. When Wesley was a sophomore, Luedke almost died from a septic stomach. His survival helped galvanize Wesley’s own fight.

“Every walk-on’s been through the dog days where they kind of take a step back and think, “what am I doing here?”

Having a stepfather, it’s really nice to have someone in your life who’s been through so much,” Wesley said. “I don’t think quitting has ever been in my blood. It’s not going to be in my children’s blood, it’s not in my family. So even if I wasn’t awarded a scholarship, I knew I wasn’t going to quit college football at all.”

As with most walk-ons, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. There have been moments of doubt. 

“Every walk-on’s been through the dog days where they kind of take a step back and think, ‘what am I doing here?’” Fulton said. “You kinda have to just get past those days… I mean I think every walk on has kind of had ‘the talk,’ from their parents when they think about quitting.”

With Fulton always having a steady hand and with Wesley now having that and early struggles, it’s not surprising that they fit the mold coaches are looking for.

“I just want good people in our program,” defensive coordinator John Jancek said. “We typically need scout offensive linemen, because those guys are banging everyday … but the biggest thing with the walk-ons is just that they’re good people and that they want to be here.”

Wesley has proven that he’s more than just a body to bang on. He’ll start at left tackle this season and has proven what he brings to the locker room.

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“What (Wesley) brings is flexibility,” said offensive coordinator Dave Johnson. “He can handle both the left and right side, he has some horizontal skills at the guard position and some vertical skills at the tackle position … He’s always trying to get better every single day and that’s something that rubs off.”

Wesley will have a big chance to prove that he was looked over coming out of high school. Fulton will see most of his time returning punts but hopes to help in the receiving game as well.

“I’m not the 6’5″ Preston Williams on the edge or the Bisi Johnson who had over 265 receiving yards in one game,” Fulton said. “I’m just the short white kid that does his job the best he can. I feel like I can open up some things in the offense and realize my role to get myself some plays or even moving some coverages around so other people can make a play.”

Fulton and Wesley agree on one thing: It’s not a lack of will that makes other walk-ons less successful.

“There’s so many other walk-ons who quit. I’m not judging them because if it’s college football and you don’t still love it then you can’t really do it,” Fulton said. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, I don’t blame you at all for quitting and going to get a job or focus on school … I just think it’s passion for the game and our love for the game just hasn’t died out yet.”

Collegian sports reporter Mack Beaulieu can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @Macknz_James.