The following article appeared on Insidelacrosse.com on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 along with a video feature about Army lacrosse head coach Joe Alberici and former head coach Jack Emmer.
By Dave Ryan
When Army’s lacrosse team opened its season on Feb. 14, five new starters took the field at Michie Stadium against VMI. The leading scorer from the 2008 team Justin Bokmeyer was gone, departed to graduation, taking his 33 points with him. As important as the loss of Bokmeyer was, the Black Knights also had to replace longtime starting goalie Adam Fullerton.
And I mean long time. On March 12, 2005, Fullerton, coming off a great career at Liverpool High in the Syracuse area, took over the starting job as a freshman Cadet from then-starter Matt Derrick. Derrick actually began the year as the starter, but suffered an injury that led to Fullerton getting his chance. Consider Derrick “Wally Pipped”.
In Lou Gehrig-like fashion, Fullerton took over and never looked back. He started every game for the rest of his Army career, in the process becoming one of the all-time great goalies in West Point history. In 2008, he was a third-team All-America, and earned Patriot League Goalie of the Year honors for a second straight year. He then became the first goalie taken in the 2008 Major League Lacrosse Draft - going 28th overall to the eventual league champion Rochester Rattlers.
Upon graduation, Fullerton received his degree in leadership management from the USMA.
He also earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. At West Point, each of the four classes has 1000 students. It’s very difficult to get in; you need letters of recommendation from your local congressman or congresswoman, then hope to receive a commission into the Academy. Only the very best in both academics and character are admitted into the majestic campus amongst the Catskill Mountains on the banks of the Hudson River.
It takes extraordinary dedication, not only to class work but to your country to get through the four years of some of the most challenging things an 18-21-year-old can experience. Fullerton made it through, and after Army’s disappointing loss to Bucknell wrapped up his Cadet career, graduation and his first military assignment lay ahead.
At the USMA, Cadets must pick a branch of the Army they want to specialize in. Once that process is complete, their training when school is out of session gets them prepared for what could be a deployment to the Middle East, or elsewhere. Fullerton’s specialty is field artillery.
Last summer, Fullerton played in two MLL games for Rochester, starting in one against the LA Riptide. “I took the [loss] in that game against LA, I wish I could have that back,” he says. “It was still a great experience, though, and I am part of the championship team.”
He couldn’t stay with the Rattlers through the MLL championship weekend in Boston, though; he had to get to Oklahoma for field artillery training. The military comes first now, lacrosse second. Once that training was complete, he awaited his orders. In the mean time, he applied for and received an internship in the athletic department.
Instead of heading off to train for deployment, he was going back to West Point, to help coach Joe Alberici and his staff prepare for games. He was also named the head JV coach at Army. His twin brother Patrick, an attackman on the lacrosse team himself, graduated with Adam last spring. Patrick was sent to train for deployment over seas, and just this week departed for Iraq. He, too is a field artillery specialist.
Two brothers, two lacrosse players, two very different military assignments. “I’m not scared,” Fullerton says of what will probably be his eventual deployment to the Middle East. “We are trained from the beginning not to be frightened. When I get there, I know my training will take over. I worry about my brother, though, and my classmates who are overseas right now. I hope they make it back OK.”
His brother will spend a week in Kuwait getting acclimated to the climate, then head to Iraq. “He sent me a text along his route,” Fullerton said. “From Fort Hood, Texas to Maine. Then to Germany and then onto Kuwait. One day, I’ll probably make that same trip.”
For now, though, he breaks down game film for Army’s coaching staff, and spends time with his successor in goal, sophomore Tom Palesky, who came off the weekend 5-3 with a .625 save percentage and 8.25 GAA.
“I finished up a late meeting with my assistant coaches one night, and the light was on the film room,” says Army coach Joe Alberici. “I looked in there, it was 11 o’clock, and there are Adam and Tom watching game film, Adam has been a tremendous influence on him. He has learned so much from him.”
Fullerton is learning a lot, too, as the head junior varsity coach at the Academy. “We’re 2-1,” he said. “We beat the Army prep school (MAPS) and Herkimer Community College. I thought I knew lacrosse, but this is hard! I have players asking me about where to stand on clears, how to get in position on attack. I don’t know those things. I was a goalie, I realized right away to be a coach you have to know what every position does all the time. It’s been an eye opener.”
Fullerton says one day he would like to become a head lacrosse coach in high school or college, but first he has a commitment to the Army.
“This is what I came here for,” he said. “After 9/11, I knew going into the military to make a difference was my destiny. I intend to fulfill that.”
Whether he eventually heads to Iraq to lead a unit like his twin brother, or to Afghanistan remains to be seen. For now, Adam Fullerton is filling a different role. “It’s been great,” he says. “I love lacrosse, and love being here at West Point. It’s hard to ask for anything more.”
Dave Ryan is a two-time Emmy-nominated broadcaster who has covered lacrosse for more than 20 years. He’s called the last five lacrosse Final Fours for ESPN and is a weekly contributor to InsideLacrosse.com and InsideLacrosse.tv.