Former Sevier athletes reflect on what it takes to become successful


Harrison Barnes

BACK IN HIS OLD STOMPING GROUNDS. Daniel Kilgore visits Sevier Middle, where he once played several sports. Kilgore has gone on to great success as a professional football player.

Kylie Moore, Yearbook Editor

Many student athletes believe they will eventually play in college or become professional athletes. The odds of becoming successful athletes beyond middle and high school, however, are low. Daniel Kilgore and John Fulkerson are two former Sevier Middle athletes who know what it takes to achieve great success beyond high school.

John Fulkerson plays basketball at the University of Tennessee, where he received a full basketball scholarship.

“I think playing sports in middle school and in high school really helped me slowly grow as a basketball player,” Fulkerson said “I think each year I got a little bit better.”

Danile Kilgore played football at Appalachian State before the San Francisco 49ers drafted him as a center. As a professional football player, he has played for the 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “I’m a numbers guy, and percentages say that most won’t make it. Why not you? Who can stop you? Most of the time, it is the individual who stops themselves. Have faith and trust in the process to meet your goals.”

Both athletes look back on their middle school athletic careers with fondness.

“My time at Sevier middle was fun,” Kilgore said. “I was involved with football, basketball, and baseball. I was a part of the city champs football team and conference champs baseball team. I really enjoyed the relationships that I made with my teammates and still best friends with a lot of those guys.”

Fulkerson agreed.

“You have a lot of friends in it that you’ve grown up with, and the relationships with the coaches that you make,” Fulkerson said. “I still talk to all of my middle school and high school basketball coaches. I talk to a lot of my teammates from middle school and high school, which were a bunch of the same teammates.”

The road from middle school to successful athletes, however, depends on a lot of different things. Most high school athletes believe it is important to have a fall-back plan in case their athletic career doesn’t take off. Kilgore was no different.

“My fall-back plan was to teach and coach in Kingsport schools,” he said. “I did that because you will not play sports forever and you have to mentally prepare for your future, no matter the circumstances.”

Things can get messy without a fall-back plan, unless the athlete can be almost 100% certain they will succeed. This is what John Fulkerson did.

“I did not make a fallback plan,” he said. “The school that I went to has a statistic where they say 100% of their graduates go to college on some sort of scholarship, whether that’s academic or athletic. 100% of their graduates go to college on some sort of scholarship.”

Both Fulkerson and Kilgore believe it is a good idea to surround oneself with people that are supportive.

“My parents have always been there for me, no matter the situation, and they’ve always been very supportive, very loving, very caring, and they support me in all the decisions I’ve had to make,” Fulkerson said.

This shows how important it is to have someone’s support, especially during the rough times.

“My wife, Megan, is my rock,” Kilgore said. “She keeps me going day in and day out, knowing that no matter the outcome, she will always have my back.”

In any career, especially as an athlete, there will be times when you doubt sets in. but you need to find ways to get over that and overcome those obstacles. According to Kilgore, successful athletes push through the doubts.

“I didn’t feel like I fit in with the team or was not cut out for the physicality of the next level,” he said. “I was able to push through because of my mindset of not letting down my family, friends and Kingsport.”

Although hard work will definitely make most people an athlete, natural talent also plays a role.

“There’s a lot of hard work, but I have also been very blessed with a lot of basketball talent,” Fulkerson said. “I’ve been blessed with height and very supportive people around me. So, the people around me have made it easy to get into the gym to work out. I think you really have to love what you do in any aspect of life.”

Hard work, however, seems to be the most important key to a successful athletic career.

“You realize that in order to make tour dreams come true, you have to put yourself through the most intense training and the thought process that someone else is there fighting to be better than you are,” Kilgore said.

Hard work, natural talent, supportive people, and a clear fall-back plan all play roles in helping a middle or high school athlete become successful in college or professionally. Both Kilgore and Fulkerson have some additional advice for young student athletes.

“Work as hard as you can, have very supportive people around you, because that really makes it easier sometimes for people around you to be so supportive, and really want to keep you going and make you work harder,” Fulkerson said.

Kilgore believes being a great athlete, however, goes beyond the field or court.

“Enjoy being a young athlete,” Kilgore said. “Step away from the game and relax. It is a long road to reach professionalism and you have plenty of time for it. Learn how to be a better student, teammate, and person.”