AISD spokesman Lance Fleming reading Abilene High head coach Mike Fullen’s statement about his cancer diagnosis back in August, “I have been diagnosed with colon cancer and will be taking some time away from our program to have surgery and recover.
The Abilene High football team was rocked by that announcement about Abilene High head coach Mike Fullen’s cancer diagnosis and the fact that he was going to be gone from the team for at least 2 months.
Keegan Copher said, “Obviously it was a big shock, at first. Just to have his face lost. Even though our other coaches did a really good job of trying to keep that mentality, it was just really different not having him there.”
Fullen said, “It put a lot of things in perspective for me as far as the role I’m in. The time I was away from the team, I reflected on a lot of things. My main focus and what I really wanted to do was get back with the team as quickly as I could.”
When coach Fullen came back to coach the Eagles starting with their district opener, he was a different coach from the guy his players were used to having, but in a good way.
Jayton Stuckey said, “He wants to be more personable and really get down to an individual level. He’ll pull you aside and talk to you more individually instead of addressing you as your position.”
Turns out, the defensive players like Stuckey knew their coach better than the offensive players because he was the defensive coordinator. Fullen is trying to change that, and the offensive players are noticing.
Copher added, “That’s been really nice to have. Just through the interactions with him, you can find the soft side of him very easily, especially with the sense of humor he has.”
Fullen said, “To get around and cut up with the guys, so they know there’s a time to have fun and times to get to work and get to business.”
The new approach is working. Since his return, the Eagles are 4-2, and Abilene High is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Winning a playoff game is foreign to the current Abilene High team, and Coach Fullen plans to make it special when his team wins its first playoff game.
Fullen said, “I’m dang sure going to make sure when we win that first playoff game, everybody is in a group picture, and everybody gets their hands on that trophy and gets a picture.”
Cancer changed Mike Fullen’s coaching style, and that’s not all. His approach to life is different, too.
Fullen added, “I look forward to getting up every morning, now. I can’t wait to get up here and be around the coaches and be around the players. I can’t say that I was that way prior to this.”
Mike Fullen is the Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union Coach of the Week.