The Brother Martin Crusaders started last season with a bang, winning the first five games of the year. However, the final five games, all losses, made it a bittersweet season for offensive lineman Elbert Fulgham and his teammates.
"We slacked off after the first five games," said Fulgham, a 6-foot-1, 280-pound three-year starter who was named first-team all-district last year in the Catholic League. "After the fast start, we began slowing down in practice, but we're not going to do that this time around. We have to keep going and working hard, no matter what."
Fulgham, who plays both center and offensive guard at times, doesn't have a scholarship offer yet, but he has a great opportunity to impress scouts when Brother Martin faces O.P. Walker and five-star defensive tackle Anthony Johnson in the third week of the season. Johnson, an LSU commit, is the No. 3 ranked DT in the nation.
With all that in mind, Fulgham has been tirelessly working on his conditioning this summer.
"I've been focused on improving my stamina and conditioning," he said. "Earlier today, we ran four 300-yard shuttles and 40 40-yard dashes -- with only 10 seconds of rest in between. The coaches divide us into groups - I'm with the offensive linemen and defensive linemen - and you have to run a certain time to meet the requirements that are set by our coaches."
Last year, Fulgham opened the lion's share of holes for star running back Dante Butler, who broke the school single-game rushing record with a 278-yard, five-touchdown effort vs. McDonogh 35. The presence of Fulgham and Butler, both seniors this fall, will ensure that Brother Martin has a powerful running game.
"Our strength is our strong running game and our big offensive line," Fulgham said. "Our defensive line is also getting solid. We need some work on our passing game and we lost a linebacker who transferred to another school."
All five teams in the Catholic League - Jesuit, Rummel, Shaw, St. Augustine, and Brother Martin - made the playoffs last year and that's ample evidence that the district has supplanted the 5A "River Parishes" district (East St. John, Hahnville, Dutchtown, Destrehan, etc.) as the most rugged district in the state.
"It's tough," said Fulgham. "St. Aug, Rummel, and Shaw will all be good this year."