After helping to contribute to the success on their respective sides of the ball for the Denison Yellow Jackets, senior linebacker Nate Maulsby and senior offensive lineman Stephen Fulenchek are headed to the next level.
Maulsby signed his letter of intent to play for Navarro College while Fulenchek is headed to Austin College.
Maulsby, who led the Jackets in tackles the past two seasons, chose the junior college program over Missouri Valley College.
A four-year varsity player for the Jackets, Maulsby committed to the Bulldogs late last month and is looking to continue that type of success at the next level.
“I like the energy the campus had,” he said. “The coaches were really great and I got to meet some of the guys and really enjoyed everything about my visit.”
Maulsby finished his senior season with 107 tackles, 13 for a loss, with three sacks, an interception returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and five quarterback pressures as a first-team all-district selection in 7-5A (II) as Denison finished 6-4 and tied for fourth place in the district standings but missed out on a third straight playoff appearance as the Jackets were on the wrong end of a tie-breaker with Lake Dallas.
“There were so many moments that I’ll miss but the games are what I will miss the most,” Maulsby said.
During December he participated in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“They think I fit best at MIKE linebacker,” Maulsby said. “They really showed that they wanted me and needed me to come right in and play. It felt right.”
In 2017 he was a first-team all-district selection in helping Denison to an 8-3 mark — the program’s best in nearly a decade — and a runner-up district finish. Despite missing a couple of games he still tied for the team lead with 106 tackles, including 12 for a loss, and three sacks.
Navarro College went 6-5 this past season, reaching the Southwest Junior College Football Conference semifinals before losing against Hutchinson (Kan.) in the Salt City Bowl. It was the first lost in six bowl appearances for the program.
The Bulldogs have had a winning season every year since 2005, including a national title in 2010, and were ranked 17th in the National Junior College Athletic Conference poll in 2017 and were ninth in the country the season prior.
From 2007-17 Navarro finished the season ranked in the top 15 nine times, including six times in the top five.
Last season one of Maulsby’s former teammates, linebacker Brendon Luper, was on the Bulldogs roster after transferring from Pittsburg State as well as Bonham tight end Corey Smallwood, who transferred from A&M-Commerce, and Melissa kicker Jace Ingram was a freshman.
Fulenchek saw some varsity snaps as a junior before moving into a full-time starter at tackle for his final season. He helped pave the way for to average 411.5 yards overall with 335.7 of that coming on the ground. The Jackets almost had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and totaled 41 touchdowns rushing.
As part of the unit up front blocking for that production, Fulenchek was a second-team all-district selection.
He chose Austin College over Angelo State and a preferred walk-on spot at Stephen F. Austin.
“It’s just such a prestigious academic school. My visit with the coaches and the players was just great,” Fulenchek said. “It’s close to home so family and friends can come watch me play.”
While the offers were there for him to compete at a higher level, Fulenchek wanted the right fit.
“Austin College came in and showed they really wanted me. It all came down to the level of want,” he said.
Austin College went 2-8 last season and 2-6 in the Southern Athletic Association. Area players on the roster last season included Van Alstyne’s Colton Hobbs, Whitesboro’s Nolan Frith, Pottsboro’s Sam Bevers and Gunter’s Trey Carr.
Finding a spot on the end of the line is something he hopes will continue.
“I’m used to playing everything on the line but I don’t want to move anymore. I wanted to stay at tackle,” Fulenchek said. “It wasn’t a big factor but it was a part of the decision.”