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‘That is the dream’: Creon Fulgham showcases talent in Rising Stars Bowl game

‘That is the dream’:  Creon Fulgham showcases talent in Rising Stars Bowl game

By Candace Begody
Special to the Times

CHANDLER, Ariz.

Creon Fulgham entered AT&T Stadium with one state of mind: “Skoden.”

He wrote it on the back of his jersey as he entered the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the Navajo Nation flag wrapped around him, ready to compete in the 2022 Dream All-American Rising Stars Bowl game.

The 15-year-old sophomore at Chandler Prep Academy in Chandler, Arizona, was one of three high school football players from Arizona selected to compete in the Rising Stars bowl game, which featured some of the top high school football players from across the nation. This bowl game invites freshman, sophomore and juniors to learn from and compete against each other, the chance to play in an NFL stadium, and the chance to work with and compete before college coaches.

“It was such a big moment, it was surreal,” Fulgham recalled entering AT&T Stadium Jan. 17, the day after the Dallas Cowboys hosted the 49ers. “I know that if I keep working, I am going to get here someday. I just have to keep working and I don’t want to stop here.”

Earning respect

Fulgham’s team secured the win with a final score of 21-17. He also received the game winning pick having made four tackles and one interception.

“The Navajo Nation doesn’t get represented for their football and doesn’t get the exposure, but there is a lot of good talent,” Fulgham said. “I want them to know that they can get here too.”

The week prior to his trip to Dallas, Fulgham was in San Antonio, having just completed the 2022 All-American National Combine, sponsored by rivals.com and Adidas.

The combine allows top high school athletes across the nation to showcase their skills in front of college coaches representing football programs in the nation, in the areas of speed, ball-handling skills and leaping ability, among other skills.

Depending on an athlete’s respective position, athletes are judged based on a 40-yard dash, shuttling sets which measures the change of direction and ability to change direction, power pushups, and vertical and broad jumps. This particular combine allows underclassmen to compete for a chance to play in the all-senior All-American Bowl, a college football showcase for college football coaches.

To be invited to the combine and then to compete in the Rising Stars bowl game, Fulgham had to first earn the respect of the local football community. He did just that.

Competing at high-level

“This was a really big year for me,” he said, recalling this past football season. “All the coaches vote for the cornerback they feel is one of the best and I was voted on so that was really big.”

Fulgham has been on the varsity team since his freshman year, starting as a strong safety and then moving to the cornerback position. For two weeks during the 2021 season, Fulgham was leading the state of Arizona in interceptions, wrapping up the year with a total of seven interceptions, which earned him a spot on Arizona’s First Team All-Region team.

Fulgham received word that he was invited to compete at the San Antonio combine after his game film was passed on to the combine selection committee.

“The cool thing about him is that we didn’t know he got nominated, another coach nominated him,” said Nick Fulgham, father and alumnus of St. Michael High in St. Michaels, Arizona. “They saw some talent in him, the committee saw his Hudl highlights, and thought he belonged there.”

Among the talent participating in the combine included football players who had already committed to programs like Alabama, Louisiana State University, the University of Southern California, among others.

“The purpose of the combines is to see how well he stacks against other defensive backs,” said the elder Fulgham. “He said he wanted to play college football, but we also tell him, ‘This is the kind of work you need to do. You have to have good grades and be able to compete at this high level.’

“We want him to have those dreams but understand the reality and tell him, if he wants this, he has to work,” he added.

Proud accomplishments

Having played football at St. Michael High, Fulgham said he knows the struggles of playing for a small school.

“Traditionally colleges don’t look too much into small schools for talent but there is a lot of talent there,” he said. “Now to see him get these offers and invitations to compete against some to the best talent in the nation, it is really cool. Seeing him out there was a very proud moment for my wife and I. We are very proud of his accomplishments but we want him to stay humble and continue to work hard.

“We also want him to know that he is here, and he is able to compete with the best in the nation and it doesn’t matter what school you go to,” he added.

Fulgham was the only one selected from Chandler Prep.

“It was really cool being there and being from a small school like Chandler Prep,” the younger Fulgham said. “It was cool to represent Chandler Prep and in general, small schools.”

Of the competition itself, Fulgham said, “I did well against most of them but I went in just wanting to see where I held up against the top recruits in the nation. I am not used to that kind of competition, but it was good to see where I stood up. It was a good experience.”

Fulgham aspires to go to college and has an interest in studying physical therapy. But that’s only the beginning.

“I also want to play college football and play in the NFL – that is the dream,” Fulgham said. Reflecting on the combine, “… I told myself that training has to be different now. I have trained with elite athletes now and people are good. I have to get faster and stronger.

“If I have to take more time to train, I will do that,” he said. “One of the best things about me is my work ethic. I know I have the work ethic. I just have to continue to develop my skill and mature in general.”

Fulgham will be traveling to complete in another the Polynesian Bowl combine in Las Vegas.

Of her son, Wynonna Curley-Fulgham, who is from Kinlichee, Arizona, said, “Creon is very dedicated individual, whatever he does he does wholeheartedly. We do our best to instill the cultural teachings of T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego for our children.

“We remind them that no one else is going to do it but you and to always be grateful for your abilities and be grateful for those that are in your life to teach you lessons,” she said, “whether it is positive or negative, everything is a teaching.”

In addition to the Dine culture, Curley-Fulgham said the Samoan culture has also grounded her son.

“Creon is also involved in a Polynesian Dance group called Tausala, where he and his siblings get to learn and practice their Samaon culture,” she said. “We are literately living in two worlds, and we do our best to navigate through it and use our cultural teachings to help guide our children.”

She added: “Creon is a great example of dedication and being humble.”


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