The Scene: Lockport, NY, during and after the 2009 Football season. David Fluellen is one of the top players in the state for the Lockport Lions in Niagara County, and finished his senior year as the first team All-State Running Back in AA - NYS' largest classification. While he attracted interest from Rutgers, Syracuse, Penn State, and Ohio State, only two MAC schools - Toledo, and Buffalo from right down Transit Road, extended offers.
At the time, Western New York High School football was demonstrating a higher level of competition than it had in a long time. Over two seasons in 2008 and 2009, WNY schools won 8 of 10 possible high school state championships, with Sweet Home and Southwestern repeating in Classes A and C. In addition, future D1 players John Urschel, Akeel Lynch, Jimmy Gaines, and Chad Kelly were facing off weekly in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association.
And of course, UB was just coming off its strongest three seasons in decades, during which it had been led by hometown stars Naaman Roosevelt, James Starks, and Dominic Cook.
All of this is to say, in 2009, WNY high school football had some legitimacy. And yet, while UB extended and offer to Mr. Fluellen, they were always more interested in a certain James Potts from Florida, who came to Buffalo over an offer from Vanderbilt. I don't remember at the time there being too much scuttlebut around Fluellen feeling spurned, and maybe he was simply more interested in getting away from home a little bit, but the man they call "Flu" made his way to the Toledo Rockets and the Glass Bowl and has blossomed into one of the top runners in the country.
If you take a look at the nation's leading rushers, you'll find some familiar names. My alma mater features #2 on this list in the form of bruiser Andre Williams. (A note: these stats are as of Friday, November 8th and do not reflect Saturday's games, including Williams' 295 yard effort which has him at the top of the list now). #MACtion has three representatives: Underappreciated dual-threat QB Jordan Lynch at 4, Buffalo's BO-dozer Branden Oliver at 5, and The Flu, David Fluellen at 10 even after missing chunks of a game or two with various dings this season. All told there are 14 players in FBS with 1000 yards rushing so far this season, and 4 are from the MAC.
It's safe to say Flu will be getting a long look from NFL teams come this spring, and will likely hear his name called in the draft. Unfortunately for Buffalo, he still has some unfinished business on the collegiate field, and is working to heal up from an ankle injury in advance of his second and final shot against his hometown team, barring a lot of dominoes falling and creating a rematch in the MAC Championship Game.
James Potts has had trouble getting on and staying on the field for UB, while his foil Fluellen has exploded for Toledo, with nearly 3000 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns since the beginning of the 2012 season. He leads a Toledo rushing attack that is 15th in the country in yards/game, and has rushed for 100+ yards in six straight games this season after a tough matchup in the season opener against Florida. The streak was broken thanks to an injury early in Toledo's most recent game - a rivalry matchup v Bowling Green, but in his few snaps he did rack up 61 yards on 3 carries.
Oh, and Flu's best career game? A 35 carry, 228 yard, 2 touchdown effort in a homecoming effort at UB Stadium last year.
If I were a betting man, I would expect Flu to make it on the field Tuesday. UB was able to contain Dri Archer of Kent State alright, but Flu will be running with a point to prove in his last chance as a collegian to show WNY fans what he brings to an offense.