After addressing two needs on the defensive side of the ball to start the second day of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went back to the offensive side of the ball in the fifth round, selecting Illinois offensive tackle Xavier Fulton.
“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.”