Jaquan Fuller stared at his phone in disbelief.
It was Sept. 6, the morning prior to St. Petersburg Catholic’s second game of the season at Crescent City. Teammate Ryan Green texted that he would have to miss the season with a torn labrum.
This was not supposed to happen.
Green, the Barons’ top running back and a Florida State commit, was supposed to have a monster senior season. Fuller, a sophomore, was supposed to be the second option.
That all changed with one text.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,’’ Fuller said. “It was a big shocker.
“Then I started thinking about it. ‘Okay, now it’s my time to shine. Time to put the team on my back and take up his slack.’ ”
Green leaves a lot of slack to take up.
He gained more than 1,000 yards as a junior and was off and running this season. In a preseason game against Bishop McLaughlin, Green carried three times for 177 yards. In the first regular-season game against Sarasota Out-of-Door, he had 196 yards on five carries.
But Fuller has proven to be no slouch. Though on the small side at 5-8, 160 pounds, he has gained 173 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.
“He’s special,’’ SPC coach Steve Dudley said. “He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s tough. I think he’s just as fast as Ryan. He’s a legit 4.4 in the 40 (yard dash).
“We went from having a very nice second option to him being the focal point. He’s now our Ryan Green. Now the spotlight is all on him. That’s a lot for a sophomore.’’
Fuller’s journey to St. Petersburg Catholic started last season. He spent one week at Lakewood before transferring. He had to sit out from football at least four weeks while his move was investigated. Instead of joining the team as a freshman, he decided to play little league football instead. This is his first season of varsity, and now he’s thrust into the spotlight.
“They don’t know about me yet,’’ Fuller said. “But I think after I play, I’ll put my name out there.’’
Fridays opponent, Tampa Catholic, will be the first true test for Fuller and the Barons. Both teams are 2-0, and with only four teams in their Class 3A-5 district, there is no room for error.
“It would be huge,’’ Dudley said of beating Tampa Catholic. “They’ve got more guys, more size, more depth. Having said that, our first 11 matches up well. They’ll surprise most teams in this county. We’re a handful, especially offensively.’’
Of course, a little less of a handful with Green on the sidelines.
Fuller said he and Green grew up together in the same St. Petersburg neighborhood. Green played pee-wee football with his half-brother, Kevin McTier, who played at Gibbs.
They talk often. Fuller said he is extra motivated to play hard after Green’s injury.
“I look up to him. He’s like my big brother,” Fuller said. “He’s one of the best running backs in the nation. Of course I’m going to listen to him.’’
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org