Chance Fuller has already been designated the quarterback of the future at Fort Hays State University, and the Tigers are doing everything they can in the present to make the future brighter for the redshirt freshman.
Fuller has been splitting time with senior Jacob Mezera for the last two games and Fort Hays coach Chris Brown said Fuller will see snaps will again this week in No. 18-ranked FHSU's homecoming matchup with Central Oklahoma at 7 p.m. in Lewis Field Stadium.
“The more comfortable we can get him now, the better our future is going to be,” Brown said.
Fuller made a surprise debut in Week 3, completing 3 of 6 passes for 35 yards in a 30-24 win against Washburn.
“It’s kind of like a blur the first time, but it was fun,” said Fuller, who sports long hair that prompts some in the program to call him “Sunshine” due to his resemblance from the character in “Remember the Titans.”
In extended playing time this past Saturday at Missouri Southern, he went 10 of 18 for 168 yards with a touchdown and one interception.
“We need to get him as many reps as possible,” Brown said. “I think he does a great job when he gets in there, except for the one interception. If he gets a little more touch on that ball, it’s a nice play for us.
“We just got to teach him to stay in the pocket a little bit more, and that comes with time and being confident in your O-line to protect for you.”
Fuller expects playing behind an All-MIAA quarterback in Mezera to pay dividends for the future. Mezera has thrown for 931 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 55.7 percent of his passes this season.
“I’m sure it will help a lot,” Fuller said. “It already is. He’s been through it for three years. He tells me what he sees and we just talk through it together. I know next year, that will help me. Hopefully I can help others like he helps me.”
Fuller said the main challenge to splitting time is keeping both quarterbacks in a rhythm, but said he and Mezera are adapting.
"It’s exciting finally getting to play (after) redshirting last year,” Fuller said. “It’s kind of hard — I’m sure it’s hard for Jacob, too, — not getting into a groove. But it’s exciting. You prepare like you’re the guy each week, that’s what coach tells us to do.”
Fuller, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound native of Arlington, Texas, threw for 2,000 yards and had 26 total touchdowns as a senior at Lamar High School, earning all-district honors.
“I didn’t really want to leave Texas,” Fuller said. “Obviously I wanted to go as big as I could. Coach Ike (defensive line coach Ike Iguae) recruited me here, and I came on a visit and I fell in love right away. I committed the day I got here. I knew this was the place for me with coach Brown and all the coaches.”
Fuller said it was eye-opening to see the Tigers experience an 11-1 season and MIAA championship during his redshirt year.
“It was really cool,” Fuller said. “It made me feel like I was at the right place. Everyone here is so nice and helpful and they want the best for you.”
Brown said he saw improvement in Fuller's second outing and hopes the trend continues when the 3-1 Tigers take on the 2-2 Bronchos, who are coming off a 31-21 upset of No. 4 Northwest Missouri State.
“Just a little more confidence,” Brown said of Fuller's second appearance. “The decision making as well was good. He had some really nice throws here and there. (Against Washburn) I thought he stayed in the pocket and got hit a few times, but (against Southern), he was like, ‘Ok, I’m going to get out really quick.’ So hopefully this next game there’s a happy medium of when to run and scramble and when to stay in the pocket."