Fuller, the highest-rated football recruit from the Washington area this year, showed up at Virginia Tech this past weekend for a recruiting camp with two designs shaved into each side of his head. One was the ‘VT’ logo, the other a Clemson paw — a not-so-subtle nod to the two schools that are still in the running for his services.
On the surface, it was an innocent gesture by a teenager trying to enjoy the spotlight. In the Fuller household, though, it has become a point of contention.
Two of Fuller’s older brothers, Kyle and Corey, currently play for the Hokies. Eldest brother Vincent, who spent the past seven seasons as a safety in the NFL, went there, too. And more than ever, Kendall admitted with a smile, they’ve been letting him know about it.
“They definitely mess around, trying to get me there. But I’m just having fun with it,” he said. “It’s the last time you’re gonna go through something like this.”
No recruiting battle has consumed Hokies faithful more this offseason than the one taking place for Fuller. He has come to Virginia Tech for games and practices more times than he can remember over the years, and has relationships with every coach on the staff. But he’s also intrigued by the unknown, and will make his second visit to Clemson on Saturday.
The top cornerback in the nation according to Rivals.com, Fuller’s affection for the Tigers has galvanized a fan base that remembers well the two losses Clemson inflicted on Virginia Tech last season.
Even Nina Fuller, Kendall’s mother, has taken sides. She will remain a Virginia Tech fan regardless of her son’s decision and joked that when she first got a glimpse of his new hairdo, “I wanted to slap him on the one side.”
Recently, she has taken to showing Kendall a picture from long ago with him and his brothers all in Virginia Tech shirts. But that is the extent of the pressure she puts on her son.
Back when Kendall was first choosing a high school, she forced him to go to McDonogh in Owings Mills, near the family’s Baltimore home, and still regrets it.
“It was miserable the whole year,” Nina Fuller said. “Every day it was like, ‘Mom, I don’t like it here.’ So I said, ‘You know what, I’ll never force him to go to a school again.’ That’s the same way I feel now. I know where I want him to go, but I’ll support whatever decision he makes.”
Kendall’s recruiting experience has been wholly different than his brothers’, with more scholarship offers and more attention partly because of their previous success at the collegiate level. Vincent, a former Hokie safety, and Kyle, currently a junior cornerback for the Hokies, were lightly regarded prospects who turned into all-conference players. Corey Fuller is a senior wide receiver who was given a scholarship by Coach Frank Beamer after spending one year on the Kansas track and field team.
Kendall likes the family environment at Virginia Tech, but his friend and Good Counsel teammate, linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, committed to Clemson in April and has been making his own sales pitch to Kendall since then. Fuller’s mother will see the Clemson campus for the first time this weekend.
“I don’t want to be 98 percent or 99 percent. I want to make sure I’m totally decided,” Kendall said. “When I look at the schools, I don’t base it on ‘I’m following my brothers or I’m doing my own thing.’ I look at it as putting myself in the best situation to be successful.”
Kyle Fuller has tried to be a sounding board for Kendall during the process, hopeful he doesn’t put too much pressure on his brother to commit to Virginia Tech. But lately he can’t help it. Kyle will be a senior in 2013 and wants to play one season as a cornerback duo with Kendall.
But even he’s in the dark about the decision. When asked if he knew which way Kendall was leaning, Kyle responded, “Nobody knows.”
“I get mad when people keep saying how Clemson is his favorite and I’m like, ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about,’” Kyle Fuller said. “People always say: Is he better than you or will he be better than you? I want him to be better than me — just at Virginia Tech.
“Deep down, I think he knows how he feels about it and right now he’s just waiting for the right time to decide.”