The personable Fullriede, who retires as Morton College’s athletic director on July 1st, juggled trying to be a good husband, a good father, a good student and a good football player and making ends meet. He and his wife of 46 years, Marge, were married at 19 and had their first child a year later. They spent their first Thanksgiving apart because Luther was selected to play in a bowl game in Columbus, Ohio.
Living conditions for the newlyweds were spartan. Finding ways to pay the bills proved even more challenging. Fullriede cleaned floors at the school on the side, while his wife worked in a dress store for a $1 an hour and typed papers for other students.
“When I see our students with a family, I can relate to them,” Fullriede said. “It was very hard being a father, a husband, college student and a football player. The hard part for me was wanting social interaction with my buddies. Sometimes, it was hard to balance.”
Fullriede grew up in a three-flat on 23rd and Oakley in Chicago. While playing football at the now-closed Harrison High School, Fullriede engaged in a letter-writing campaign to college coaches to find a school.
Luther football coach Edsel Schweizer was interested. He drove in from Decorah, Iowa, to Fullriede’s home.
“He pulled up in a big, old Cadillac and all the neighbors stuck their heads out the windows,” Fullriede recalled.
Fullriede learned a great lesson in dealing with people from Schweizer’s handling of star running back Bernie Peeters, whose hair length extended beyond his helmet.
“If you’re a good person and a good citizen, long hair doesn’t define you,” Fullriede recalled. “I took that with me, learning to be tolerant and not judging someone by their appearance.”
Luther’s football fortunes skyrocketed in Fullriede’s last two seasons. The Norse were 7-2 and 8-1 as Fullriede and his fellow offensive linemen opened holes for Peeters, who finished with Luther records of 36 100-yard games and 47 career touchdowns.
“My college years were the most fun of my life,” Fullriede said. “I had a ball. Getting married was great, too. It helped settle me down. And, I became the person I am today because of the love we shared as a family.”
Fullriede graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Luther and found a job teaching in the Chicago Public School system. Later on, Fullriede officiated high school wrestling (doing three state tournaments and the Midlands) and coached freshman football at Morton High School.
Six years into retirement, Fullriede got a call from Morton College asking him to become athletic director. Fullriede’s past experiences as athletic director at Morton High School from 1994 to 2005 translated well into the Morton College position.
As a high school athletic director, Fullriede had experience with hiring coaches, scheduling, budgeting, ordering equipment, facility usage, game management, working with student-athletes and serving on conference committees
Going from a setting with 26 sports and multiple levels in a place that has the largest enrollment of any high school in Illinois to one with nine sports with one level apiece at the state’s smallest community college district sounded simple. However, Fullriede quickly discovered a new set of challenges.
One was dealing with the myriad of NJCAA rules regarding student-athlete eligibility. Another was handling a coaching staff where the majority are part-time employees opposed to a high school setting where most of the coaches were full-time teachers.
Fullriede enlisted the help of Morton College’s MIS Department to create a program that monitors athletic eligibility.
“MIS helped us build a program so we can go in at any time and check an athlete’s record with the push of a button,” Fullriede said. “We’re better able to monitor our athletes.”
Fullriede also takes pride in assembling a quality group of head and assistant coaches across the board. A new scoreboard, donated by Koppers, came during Fullriede’s tenure as well as renovations to locker rooms for men’s and women’s athletics. The athletic department doesn’t have to rely on outside transportation as much with two 15-passenger busses.
Fullriede also served as chair for golf and soccer in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference.
In retirement, Fullriede plans to spend time traveling, visiting his children and grandchildren and volunteering at his church.
“I really enjoyed my time here at Morton College,” Fullriede said. “Everyone at the college was very supportive of athletics and I really appreciated it. I met a lot of wonderful and supportive people who were very cooperative.