Life is supposed to be glamorous for professions athletes. You work for years, and if you're lucky enough to make it, you're in.
Obviously, it's not nearly that simple. And few know that better than Lockport native David Fluellen.
Fluellen's entire career has been an oddity. He went undrafted in 2014 despite spending two seasons as one of the top running backs in the country at Toledo, and failed to make a roster despite getting looks from two teams during the '14 offseason. He spent two years on the Tennessee Titans' practice squad before earning a roster spot, and he's since suited up for 25 games despite being a running back who's only seen four career carries.
Instead, he's made his mark on special teams and in the locker room. When the Tennessee coaching staff asked him to gain some weight this offseason so he could play some fullback, he obliged. Fluellen added over 15 pounds and earned a spot as a team captain during a preseason game as a nod from the coaches.
It was no big deal, Fluellen said this week, so long as it meant he got to keep playing football.
"It's something I love to do," he said during a Wednesday phone call. "It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL. Just coming in every day, it's a blessing, and it's always humbled me that I'm in this position, so I always try to do what I can every time I come to work. It's always a get-better mentality."
That mentality isn't necessarily rare in the NFL, but it's special for a player in Fluellen's position. It's one thing to do whatever you can for the team when you're sure of a core player, entrenched in the franchise. It's another when you're not sure if you'll be on the roster next week.
Fluellen is a shining example for anyone paying attention. One who should — and may be already — is Niagara Falls native Qadree Ollison, a similarly big-bodied back who has been inactive for all five games of his brief career with the Atlanta Falcons.
Ollison will earn a little bit more leeway as a fifth-round draft pick, but you don't have to search far for internet whisperers mentioning a potential future as a hybrid fullback.
Coincidentally, Fluellen's Titans faced Ollison's Falcons on Sept. 29. After a 24-20 Tennessee win, Fluellen made sure to track down his fellow Niagara County native.
"I talked to him after the game, just really asked him, how is he enjoying the process, does he have any questions for me, how the league works," Fluellen said. "I think he has a positive mindset, being on the team and wanting to get better."
If anyone knows just how far those two few things can take you, it's Fluellen.
Unfortunately, Fluellen was placed on injured reserve this week — "dealing with some things that I tweaked early on in the season," he said — effectively ending his season just before his Titans were set to face his hometown Bills.
It's another challenge, but certainly nothing new.
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