BLACKSBURG, Va. — More than two years ago, as he stood on Virginia Tech’s practice field observing the team’s July recruiting camp, cornerback Kyle Fuller admitted he kept having a recurrent dream.
Across the way stood his younger brother, Kendall, who was already one of the more coveted recruits in the country entering his junior season at Good Counsel. He went on to earn All-Met Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2012. At that point, Kyle Fuller hoped Kendall would follow the path set by him and his older brothers, Vincent and Corey, and play his college football in Blacksburg.
So as he looked out at Kendall that day, Kyle Fuller was reminded of the thought that had taken over his sleep. He had been too young to play alongside Vincent, an NFL safety who was seven years his senior, and Corey was a Virginia Tech wide receiver. With Kendall, though, he envisioned two Fuller brothers, both cornerbacks, locking up receivers on either side of the field.
That dream will become reality Saturday when Virginia Tech faces No. 1 Alabama at the Georgia Dome.
“It’s real crazy how much I used to think about it and now that it’s actually happening right now, I don’t think about it as much,” Fuller said Tuesday when reminded of that recruiting camp by a reporter. “I just think about it as he’s the other guy over there on the other side of the field.”
Indeed, Kendall Fuller, the first five-star recruit to come to Virginia Tech since former quarterback Tyrod Taylor, has made quite the impression during his first college training camp. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster had always planned to use him as the Hokies’ nickel cornerback, but senior Antone Exum’s ongoing recovery from offseason knee surgery has thrust Fuller in a starting role opposite his brother.
Kendall’s development has been aided by Kyle, who has been showing him the nuances of Foster’s defense since Good Counsel’s season ended last December. When Alabama uses three wide receivers Saturday, Kendall will slide to the nickel cornerback position – a spot Kyle Fuller excelled in two years ago — and freshman Brandon Facyson will enter the game as the team’s third cornerback.
But Foster doesn’t seem concerned by all the youth, and he won’t use Kyle Fuller to shadow dynamic Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (59 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns). Though Virginia Tech’s coaching staff has compared Cooper to Clemson standout Sammy Watkins, Foster has confidence Kendall Fuller and Facyson can handle the task if need be.
“Amari Cooper was a freshman last year. Kendall Fuller is a dynamic freshman. And I think Brandon Facyson’s a dynamic freshman. They’re going to have to play sooner or later,” Foster said this week. “But I feel good about those guys. They’re gamer type kids. I haven’t seen a deer in headlight look and I don’t think you will see that. I think those kids have a lot of confidence in their abilities.”
Added Kyle Fuller on his brother, “If he wasn’t ready, if we didn’t have the confidence in him, he wouldn’t be put in that position.”
Kendall hasn’t backed down from the challenge either, noting this weekend that “none of us are gonna shy down from [Cooper]. . . . We feel comfortable where anyone can stick him.”
Part of Kendall’s swagger comes from sitting next to Kyle in the defensive back film room every day, where Kyle said his brother has picked up Foster’s scheme even quicker than he did as a true freshman. Kyle saw significant snaps at cornerback back in 2010, although he mostly played special teams in his first college game against Boise State at FedEx Field.
But Kyle isn’t just smiling these days because of Kendall’s progress. He’s finally healthy again after battling hip and shoulder injuries that caused him to miss huge portions of practice every week just so he could play in games last year. As a result, Fuller was unable to put together the “all-conference, all-American type season” defensive backs coach Torrian Gray expected before the season began.
No matter how Fuller’s last season in Blacksburg goes, though, he knows it will start with a memory his family will cherish forever. Just call it a dream come true.
“We all get excited watching each other, so us being on the field at the same time, my brothers are gonna be pumped. I know my mother’s probably gonna be at the game crying,” Kendall Fuller said. “That this is actually happening, it’s just a blessing.”