Even as a redshirt freshman, Chance Fuller showed poise beyond his years.
Now, despite having just two career starts under his belt, Fuller is carrying himself like a seasoned veteran as he heads into his sophomore year as the Tigers' starting quarterback.
Fuller backed up Jacob Mezera last year but saw action in every game except the season opener. He earned the start in a pivotal late-season road game against Northwest Missouri, helping the Tigers knock off the Bearcats, and also started FHSU's playoff game before leaving with an injury.
Tigers' coach Chris Brown said getting Fuller playing experience last year has fast-tracked his development.
“I think letting him play last year was tremendous for his growth,” Brown said. “He’s only got better every single day. Very good at his decision making and making it very, very quickly. Last year, he made quick decisions, but not as quick as he is now. He has the opportunity to get us out of trouble if we’re in trouble with a certain play call.
“I think it’s just his presence on the field, his leadership and the confidence he plays with, which gives other guys more confidence as well."
Fuller is set to make his third career start for the Tigers in Thursday's season-opener against Central Missouri 7 p.m. at Walton Stadium in Warrensburg, Mo.
“Last year, I think I prepared like I was the (starter), like you need to each week,” Fuller said. “But this year I’m more excited because I know it’s me. Just got to do my best to help the team win and put the ball in the end zone.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Arlington, Texas native completed 92 of 141 passes last year for 1,185 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
“I think I’m in more of a leadership (role) — lead by example, be vocal on the field," said Fuller of areas he's emphasizing this year, "and also just protecting the ball — everything a quarterback needs to do to be successful."
He takes the reins of an offense that is loaded with experience. The Tigers return nine starters including four players that received All-MIAA recognition last year — offensive lineman Amari Angram-Boldin, receivers Layne Bieberle and Harley Hazlett and tight end Matt Wendelberger.
“It’s huge to have like five senior receivers, a senior tight end and our offensive line has a lot of experience,” Fuller said. “It’s big. Even the running backs have experience. I think we’re all ready to go. It’s exciting.”
The Tigers are looking to establish continuity on the offensive line, with Nathan Hale and Pat Kelly returning after missing most of last year with injuries.
“They’ll see when a blitz is coming, they’re real vocal,” Fuller said of the O-line. “They help me, and I’ll help them out. It’s big when you’re going into a game and you know what to expect.”
Though Fort Hays has some inexperience on the other side of the ball, Fuller expects the Tigers to have another stout defense. He also believes the Tiger offense is capable of helping carry the load if need be.
“I think we’ll be fine on defense,” Fuller said. “But last year defense carried us in a few games, so maybe we can return the favor. We just want to score as many points as we can. Doesn’t matter how many points they score if we score more.”