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Zach Fulton Surprised By Game-Time Decision to Start at "Home"

Posted Aug 27, 2016

The Illinois native was told he would start the game less than 5 minutes before kickoff

Sometimes an unfortunate situation has an underlying positive.

That was the case Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago, where the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff ruled out starting center Mitch Morse less than 5 minutes before kickoff due to an illness.

"I was kind of keeping my eye on Mitch the whole time [before the game],” offensive lineman Zach Fulton and Morse’s replacement for the game, said. “He kind of told me as well."

Morse hadn’t really been feeling right all week, so when that continued Saturday, head coach Andy Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck went in a different direction.

That direction was Fulton, who also happened to have his father and Michael Patterson, one of his high school coaches, in attendance. This was the first time Fulton was playing as a professional in his home state of Illinois, where he attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

"It was definitely a pretty cool feeling,” Fulton said. “It was my first time being home during a football season since high school, so it was actually pretty cool to finally play here and play at home."

Fulton, who off the field is quiet and mild mannered, told his fellow linemen how much it meant to him to be starting in Chicago after the first offensive series, which resulted in a field goal and 3 points.

"It worked out real well,” Parker Ehinger, the team’s starting left guard, said. “We play well together and with him being able to step up with Mitch going out, he did a great job in there. We communicated well and I feel like we were getting the ball pretty well and we passed the ball even better."

The starting offensive line played the entire first half along with the first-team offense. Altogether, that led to 239 total net yards, including 14 rush attempts for 62 yards and 181 yards passing for Alex Smith. Smith was only sacked once the entire half, and the Chiefs took a 13-0 lead into the locker room.

The Chiefs eventually defeated the Bears, 23-7, for their first preseason win of the season.

“The way we were clicking on offense today in the first half, it feels good,” Ehinger added. “It's good to get out there and knock off some of the rust that we had from the previous game. [We made] some minor corrections, but it's looking good going into the final preseason game. It was good to get a win under our belt in the preseason."

Saturday marked the fourth start ever for Fulton at center, a position he had never played, including high school and college, before last year.

With Morse out due to a concussion in 2015, Fulton had to fill in at center during Kansas City’s final regular season game and both playoff games.

Though it was unfortunate Morse was sick, the Chiefs know they have a backup they can trust in Fulton.

“It was very seamless,” Ehinger said of Fulton playing Saturday. “They’ve been kind of rotating guys in and Zach's been a guy that kind of rotates in with me sometimes or with Mitch or right guard. Zach matches well with a lot of us. He's good out there when it comes to making calls. It was a pretty seamless transition."

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