FNF : Travis Dean and Fulton sprint into Week 7
FULTON - Travis Dean was at a loss for words for how his senior season felt.
Then again, Dean doesn't talk about himself much. He's not one to sing his own praises.
"I've always been like that," Dean said.
2015 marks the third straight season Dean has owned the starting running back job for the Fulton Hornets. He's literally hit the ground running, rushing for over 1000 yards and scoring 15 total touchdowns, 13 of which came on the ground. All this in six games.
"It would've meant a lot more last year," Dean said, traces of a grin on his face. "Sophomore year I got 900-something yards, or close to it. And I got to  last year. But to get to it this year, this fast, it means a lot."
Fulton's coaching staff and several of Dean's teammates commend him on not only his style of play, but his humility on and off the field. Dean said it's easy not to get too carried away after one good play.
"I don't ever really get mad. Just play."
The Hornets own a 5-1 record, coming off a loss last week to Hannibal. Fulton football coach Pat Kelley said that historically, the Hornets have fared well when they have talented athletes in the backfield. He also said Dean has impressed him with how he's handled success this season.
"He's a kid I've never seen celebrate a touchdown," Kelley said. "He'll get to the endzone, he flips the ball to the referee. Now kids may come mob him or whatever and that's about it. He'll come to the sideline, and we'll say 'Nice run' and he'll just say 'Thanks.' He doesn't make a big deal out of it, he's very soft-spoken. For a kid who's had the success he's had, he carries it very well."
Dean runs track for Fulton as well. Off the field, he's an avid follower of the Dallas Cowboys. Dean's father has been a fan his whole life, and makes sure he and Travis go to at least one game every year. Dean said he models his game after Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Has Dean ever thought about playing wide receiver like his role model Bryant?
"Wherever they want to put me," Dean said pensively. "That's where I go."
The Hornets take on a tough opponent Friday in the Boonville Pirates (2-4) at Robert E. Fisher, Jr. Stadium. New leadership at the helm in the form of Barry Blank has drawn very positive reviews from the Boonville players and community. Kelley said he always anticipates a close game with the rival school, and this year's opponent is much better than its record. Dean's expectations for the game, on the other hand, are much more simple.
"Win," Dean said. "I'm ready to get a win. Go out there and try your hardest. If you try your hardest, you win."
Dean has a supporter in Darren Masek, Fulton's offensive coordinator. (Darren's son, Devin Masek, is the team's quarterback.) He said the team greatly benefits from Dean's dynamic running game.
"Travis' abilities allow us to do several different things," Masek said. "Obviously, he's a very special athelte. He really opens up the passing game. But more importantly it puts a lot of stress on the defense. They have to game-plan around him. Our offensive line this year has done an outstanding job blocking, but at times, Travis doesn't need a whole lot of blocks. He's very elusive and very explosive at the same time.
"His impact - you can't measure it. He does a lot of things offensively you can't duplicate with other people. He's someone we count on a whole lot."
The running back said it's been a work in progress getting to the level of play he's showing in 2015.
"[The coaching staff] taught me a lot, definitely," Dean said. "They taught me how to do things the right way, and how to go fast. It's been a lot of help."
In addition to a positive attitude and approach to the game, Dean brings the same mentality to every down he plays - whether he's third and long, or at the goal line.
"Positive yards, I try to get positive yards," Dean said. "I try to help out the team win any way I can. Well, 20 yards is better than 2 yards. It helps the team more, so I like that better."
"His vision - the way he sees a hole - his quickness, those kinds of things are the intangibles that you can't coach but you want a kid to have," Kelley said. "He does such a good job of moving in the hole and reading blocks. And then, once he gets out there, he's got great speed."
When asked if Dean, who projects to run for close to 2000 yards this season, could stay healthy in the playoff stretch, Masek said, "We're hoping so." Masek said plus character and work ethic would help allow Dean to carry the load.
"When he gets on the field, he's a warrior," Masek said. "He runs hard and he's very aggressive. When he's off the field, he's a very mild-mannered, polite young man."
Kelley said he hopes Dean plays football in college, saying his player's character would help him no matter what he decides to do in life.
"He's going to be succesful in whatever he does," Kelley said.
Boonville at Fulton is KOMU 8 Sport's Game of the Week for Friday Night Fever. Follow the live blog on KOMU.com for up-to-the-minute photos, highlights, and more. Interact with us on Twitter @komusports and on Snapchat, KOMU_FNF. Full highlights and scores of all games will air during KOMU 8 News at 10.