David Fluellen relocated to Scottsdale, Ariz., in mid-December, opting to finish his college coursework online as he trains for professional football.
Three classes stand in the way of Fluellen attaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. A different career path, one in football, awaits if the former University of Toledo running back remains productive, and especially healthy, in the build up to May’s NFL draft.
So far, so good.
After declining overtures for lesser all-star games, Fluellen accepted a late invitation to play in Saturday’s Senior Bowl. He’s been in Mobile, Ala., this week practicing with the North team and will wear No. 34.
Fluellen checked in at 5 feet, 11 inches and 226 pounds — one inch shorter and 11 pounds heavier than his listed measurements at Toledo.
There are two other North running backs — Wisconsin’s James White and West Virginia’s Charles Sims.
Fluellen missed all or big chunks of Toledo’s last five games — first with a sore back, then with an ankle fracture — and did not play against Akron to end the season. Still, he ranks fourth all-time at UT with 3,336 rushing yards and is second in yards per carry (5.95). His 80 career receptions speaks to his versatility.
North coach Gerald Brown told the Buffalo News this week that Fluellen has a “knack for making plays.”
“He’s had some plays on the field this week where it didn’t look like much was there, and he found a way to find green grass and make a run,” said Brown, the running backs coach for the Atlanta Falcons. “He’s a good-sized kid, he works hard, and he’s been good in the classroom the days we’ve had him.”
After Toledo did not receive a bowl invitation, Fluellen moved to Arizona to start training. He said he would have been able to play in a bowl.
“Ankle’s doing much, much better,” Fluellen said. “Able to do a lot of stuff on it now. They have a great staff here, hands on doctors and stuff like that. Whenever I have any type of pain they help me out right away.”
Health concerns will follow Fluellen to the draft, although he’s confident his injuries are fluky, an assertion given credence by his never having undergone major surgery. He accepted an invitation to the NFL Combine in late February and intends to participate in Toledo’s pro day March 11.
Fluellen, who is projected to go in the late rounds, is the best bet to be UT’s first draft pick since 2008. Wide receiver Bernard Reedy and center Zac Kerin, who is training at the same facility as Fluellen, are also getting looks. Reedy caught a touchdown pass Saturday in the East-West Shrine game. Kerin also participated.
Saturday will be Fluellen’s turn, and he’ll begin a game healthy for the first time since Oct. 19 against Navy.
“I haven’t played football in quite a long time due to injuries,” he said. “I really want to get back out there and run, jump, and prove to everybody I can still do it.”