By Tyler Dunne
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
The fullback position is alive and well in Buffalo where the team signed Jerome Felton to pave the way for LeSean McCoy. The eight-year veteran helped Adrian Peterson rush for more than 2,000 yards in Minnesota and is hoping to do the same for McCoy here.
In this week’s Getting to Know Q&A, Felton discusses growing up with a bunch of different animals, why he wishes he could meet Martin Luther King Jr., his transition from running back to fullback and details his greatest hit.
Where are you from and what did you do growing up? I’m from Madisonville, Tenn. I moved there when I was in fourth grade. It’s a country town. My stepdad’s a veterinarian so I spent a lot of time at his office, working with animals, going to farms with him and things like that. That was most of my childhood.
Did you have a lot of pets? Yeah, we had ferrets, cats, dogs, we had a wolf – basically a full wolf. A couple birds. When I was really young, we had a monkey. We always had different animals around the house. My sister’s a veterinarian, too.
What’s it like having all of these animals running all over the place? You get used to it. I’ve always been a big animal lover and it’s always been a big part of my family. So it’s fun. I enjoy pets, all different kinds. We had two acres, so they could run around and we didn’t have to clean up after them too much. They kind of did their own thing.
Did you have a favorite pet? We had a Rottweiler named Falco. She was a really good dog. Loyal. That was my favorite pet growing up.
What’s one thing people don’t know about you? I was born in Germany. I played the flute and baritone when I was in middle school.
How long were you in Germany? My mom is from Germany. I was born there and we moved when I was a baby. My dad was in the military, so we moved here when I was a year old.
Do you go back at all? I did when my grandparents were alive. I haven’t been back since third or fourth grade.
How did you get into the flute? My mom always pushed us to do different things. She wanted us to play different instruments. I don’t know how I got into the flute but I switched to the baritone to do something a little bit bigger. I did that all the way through middle school and gave it up because I was in football and wasn’t really into band at that point.
Did people make fun of you playing the flute? My friends would make fun of me when I had to carry my baritone with me. And it was heavy! So I ended up buying a little roller. Every morning, I come in rolling my baritone. They used to give me a little bit of grief for that.
What kind of music are you into? I like Top 40. Hip-hop. R&B. Rock here and there. But more Top 40 than rock.
Who’s one person you’d want to meet – dead or alive – and have a conversation with? Martin Luther King Jr. It’d be pretty cool to have a conversation with him. He’s such a visionary. Obviously everybody talks about the race aspect of it, but one of his biggest things is income inequality, and to speak about that before it was even a huge subject. He was just such a visionary, it would’ve been cool to see what would’ve happened if he was still alive today.
How would you describe your personality? Opinionated. But I’m pretty quiet, conservative but very opinionated also. Whether it’s politics, sports, I’m one of those people that, I have my way of looking at things and usually think I’m right.
So if you’re running for president in one of these debates, what would you really be pushing for? It’s kind of weird because it’d go against my economic situation at this point but that’d probably be the thing: income inequality. If we had a stronger middle class then everybody would be on the up and up.
You were a running back in college (at Furman), carried the ball a lot, and then all of a sudden you’re not that player in the NFL. You were the big man on campus and now you’re playing this selfless position. What’s that like? It’s different, but I never had a big problem switching over, which is probably why I’ve had success and been able to last as long as I have. Obviously I enjoyed scoring touchdowns and different things like that. But one of my main goals was to have a successful career in the NFL. When I got here, I found out this is going to be my role so I basically accepted it and just ran with it to be the best I can.
Do you look around the NFL and count fullbacks? It’s definitely less and sometimes I think it gets exaggerated a little. But if you look at some teams who have had success in the past, whether it be the 49ers with Greg Roman or even the Patriots last year. They were probably one of the top five or six teams in the league in using the fullback and they won the Super Bowl.
What do you like to do in your free time? Right now, it’s playing ping pong. When I’m not on the practice field, I’m in here playing ping pong. But other than that, I’m a homebody. I like hanging out on the couch watching TV. And I have a daughter so I spend time with her.
Is your family here in Buffalo? They travel back and forth. She’s in school right now and in a good school you can’t just take them in and out of. So they travel up for all the home games and whenever she’s out of school. They’re in Atlanta. I live in Atlanta in the offseason.
Is that tough being apart? Yeah, it’s tough. They come up here a lot so that helps. But it’s tough because sometimes I’d like to go home and see her. And she doesn’t like talking to me on the phone, so I usually have to wait until I can see her in person. So, yeah, it’s tough. But it’s all for a good reason. NFL careers are always short and we’re going to have a lot of time together so it’s not too bad.
Do you have a favorite sports team outside of the NFL? I like the Lakers because I’m a Kobe Bryant fan. Kobe was my guy. The grit and the determination he has. Obviously LeBron is a great athlete, but the skill level Kobe has, his game is so polished. Obviously, he’s getting older now but some of the things he can do on the basketball court, you just knew it took a lot of hard work and talent. That’s what I respect most about him.
If you were the commissioner of the NFL, what would you do? It’d be hard to guarantee contracts because there’s so much turnover and injuries but I’d definitely work harder to try to come to some compromise when it comes to that. Getting more guarantees in contracts. Getting more protections when it comes to that. I don’t think it’s fair that a team can cut a guy after one year but if he tries to renegotiate his deal after a year or two, he’s the worst person in the world. The thing that irritates me the most is when I see a guy like Kam Chancellor, who’s the leader of that defense and well-outperformed that contract, says he wants an adjustment to it and he’s looked at like a horrible guy. But you could sign a five-year deal and they cut you after a year, no big deal.
Who was your inspiration growing up? From a football perspective, I was always a big Jerome Bettis fan. That was somebody I wanted to be like and he made me a big Steelers fan.
What was the best hit you’ve had in your life? We played App State in the semifinals my sophomore year. We’re on ESPN and I broke through the line for a 40-yard run, broke a couple tackles and Corey Lynch comes down the middle of the field and I just truck-stick him and just keep rolling. It was a 40-yard touchdown. That was my best run, best hit.
Is it on YouTube? Oh yeah.
So you have to miss carrying the ball a little? Yeah, I miss it but those guys take a pounding. People think we take a punishment but a runner takes a crazy amount of hits. So I miss it and I wouldn’t mind getting it every once in a while but I enjoy what I do now, too.