Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior – Football
Fugate, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back, ran 37 times for 477 yards and five touchdowns in GRCC’s 57-50 win over Comstock Park on Oct. 6. His rushing yardage ranked fourth-most in MHSAA history for one game and second-most in the state since 1990, earning Fugate the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Also the leading rusher on last season’s team that won the Division 4 championship, Fugate has carried the ball 111 times for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns this fall – averaging 10 yards per carry. He's amassed those numbers despite limited attempts in four running clock games this fall. After coming up for the playoffs but seeing little action as a sophomore, and then moving into a prominent role the last two seasons, Fugate is fourth in GRCC history with 335 career carries, second with 2,537 career yards, tied for second with 27 career rushing touchdowns and fifth with a career average of 7.6 yards per carry. And like any good back, he knows to credit those clearing the way – Fugate follows an outstanding line led by 6-5, 270-pound Jalen Mayfield, who has committed to sign with University of Michigan.
Fugate also ran track last season for the first time in high school and plans to do so again this spring. He hopes to return to the basketball program as well – he played subvarsity his first two years before taking last season off. He’s aiming to continue his football career after high school and has interest from many of the state’s top Division II programs plus a few at the Division I mid-major and NAIA levels. Fugate is planning to study business and carries a 3.2 grade-point average. Wherever he goes, that program will get a proven winner – GRCC is 7-0 this fall heading into tonight’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue title-deciding matchup with reigning Division 5 champion Grand Rapids West Catholic, and the Cougars are 21-2 with Fugate on the roster.
Coach Todd Kolster said: "I think the world of Nolan. He is a very self-motivated young man. He is very mentally tough and has worked extremely hard to help lead our team. He is a great teammate and a high-character person. He's is a great competitor. ... He is one of the best tailbacks in the state of Michigan; he rushed for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago. He could have very gaudy statistics and surpassed those totals already if I played him in those other (running clock) weeks."
Performance Point: “We had a good gameplan coming in, and I think we executed really well and our line blocked really well and it was just a good night offensively,” Fugate said of the Comstock Park win. “I knew I was having a pretty good night. I knew I had some big runs, and I was just following my blocks, but I didn’t know the exact yards I had. I was actually pretty surprised (at the yardage total). I had some big runs the first possession, and I could see our offensive line executing their blocks well so I was figuring I would have a pretty big night. The first play we had the ball in the second half, I broke a 72-yard run. That was my favorite run because I broke out into the open and I just ran past everyone and I could hear the crowd screaming.”
Following Jalen: “He’s my best friend too, and it’s pretty special. You don’t get a chance to run behind the best lineman in the state very often, so I’m pretty fortunate. We shared a moment when we talked about how good of a night it was, and it was just a really special night overall.”
Great expectations: “We’ve just been listening to the coaching staff, and whatever they’ve asked we’ve been executing to the best of our ability. And we’ve been staying focused throughout the week trying to have the best practices we could have. We realize the expectations are high, so we just have to stay focused on each game and play united and just get better each day. You’ve just got to worry about one thing at a time and for that (opponent), and you can’t look ahead to the playoffs. … We knew the expectations were high, but I had faith. We definitely had more talent last year, but I feel like we’ve executed a lot better this year up to this point. I knew we could be special, and if we just keep working out each day and bringing it every day I think it will turn out really well.”
Running like “All Day” Adrian: “My favorite running back is probably (the Phoenix Cardinals’) Adrian Peterson, so growing up I always watched him. He’s a strong, explosive, physical runner. I like how he runs downhill and he’s always physical, and when he gets an opening he’s very explosive.”
Hooping like a football player: “A kid I grew up with (point guard Austin Braun) has been talking to me about (playing basketball). I was thinking about it, and I think I’m just going to do it. I think our team will do really well this year, so it would be fun to be a part of it. I’ll probably play really physical. I’ll probably be like the sixth man, bring intensity and defense and rebounding. That’ll probably be my job."
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2017-18 honorees:
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Nolan Fugate runs away from the Comstock Park defense during last week’s 57-50 win. (Middle) Fugate prepares to take on a Comstock Park defender. (Photos by Murray Sports Photography.)
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.
“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”
Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.
“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.
Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.
As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.
He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.
“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.
Guillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.
“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.
Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.
At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.
“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”
Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.
In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.
Gribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.
“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”
Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.
“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”
In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.
“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.
“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”
Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.
“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”
Big shoes to fill
As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.
Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.
Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.
Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.
“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.
As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”
His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.
He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.
“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”
Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.
“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.
“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)