KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – John Fulkerson is returning for a sixth basketball season at the University of Tennessee, and he’ll be doing it as a partner of a Northeast Tennessee staple.

Fulkerson, a native of Kingsport, will be partnering with Pal’s Sudden Service following changes in policy that allow college athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness.

At a media event Monday morning, Pal’s Chief Operating Officer Adam Crosby introduced Fulkerson as the restaurant chain’s new athletic partner.

“This is something new for us, and I’m certain that we’ll learn a lot along the way, but we’re very excited about the fun things we have planned,” Crosby said.

“If you know me, and know the things I like other than basketball, you know that Pal’s is something very near and dear to my heart and something that I’ve kind of unintentionally branded for the past three or four years since I’ve been at Tennessee,” Fulkerson said.

You can watch News Channel 11’s stream of the event below:

“Fulky” said he hopes to get Pal’s introduced to his teammates and possibly work a few shifts at a Pal’s location to learn more about the restaurant.

“Unless you’re from the Tri-Cities, I really don’t think people may know kind of the effect it has on Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, and the surrounding areas and how much of a staple and trademark it is with just the people here in the community,” said Fulkerson.

“Fulkerson has been a longtime advocate for his favorite hometown chain restaurant chain,” a release from Pal’s states. “He regularly posts on social media about Pal’s and their food. During the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year, John even mentioned he’d brought plenty of Pal’s famous ‘Frenchie Fries’ to help him prepare for their opening game.”

During the announcement, Fulkerson presented Crosby with a signed basketball. Crosby in turn gave Fulkerson a set of Pal’s T-shirts, each individually signed by the late founder of the chain, Pal Barger.

Photo: WJHL

Fulkerson said he has taken some of his teammates to the Jefferson City Pal’s, since that is the closest one to Knoxville. However, Crosby said Pal’s could be looking at expanding into the Knoxville market on Monday.

“Potentially, we’re always looking to expand,” Crosby said. “To touch briefly on the Pal’s company expansion, we only believe in building a restaurant when we have a leader fully trained and ready, so that kind of determines where and how we expand.”

“Mr. Crosby, I’m willing to go through whatever training I need to go through,” Fulkerson joked.

The release from Pal’s states Fulkerson will have specific roles as a brand ambassador. As part of the partnership, he will “share his thoughts and experiences as a Pal’s loyal customer, endorse Pal’s menu items, and help recruit others to join the Pal’s team as an employee.”

Crosby said as of Monday, there are no plans for any “Fulky” menu items.