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For Fuller brothers, Virginia Tech has become a family home

Damien Russell is 43 now. It's been 22 years since the former defensive back played for Virginia Tech.

Hokies fans might not recognize the name, but Russell is an important figure in the program's history. He is a cousin of the Baltimore-based Fullers — one of the city's most impressive football families — and was the first member to play for Virginia Tech.

Russell helped launch a procession of talented Fullers — Vincent Jr., Corey, Kyle and Kendall — from Baltimore to Blacksburg, Va.

Two Fullers, senior Kyle and freshman Kendall, play defensive back for Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), which hosts Maryland (5-4, 1-4 ACC) on Saturday. The Terps, who have lost three straight games, need one victory to become bowl eligible.

Russell "kind of put Virginia Tech on the map for us," said Vincent Fuller Jr. (Woodlawn), 31, who played seven NFL seasons after his Hokies career ended.

Maryland recruited Vincent and his three brothers, but didn't land any. The Terps went 0-for-the-Fullers.

"They took a shot at all of us," said Vincent Jr., who lives in Baltimore and said he is applying to law schools. "Each of us has our own story."

At the time of his recruitment, Maryland's program had endured four straight losing seasons under coach Ron Vanderlinden, who was dismissed in 2000. Vincent Jr. said he was concerned about stability on the coaching staff.

Kendall, the highest rated of the group coming out of high school (Good Counsel), said Virginia Tech had "a nice college campus" and was isolated enough that there is "not a lot of trouble to get into."

Said Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley: "It's a family we haven't had much success recruiting here."

To Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who has coached all of them, the Fullers are the family that just kept on giving.

"We really have been fortunate," Beamer said. "You know, every one of them have been just a delight to have in the program. Corey got away from us for a while. He got out to Kansas on track and then came back and turned out to be a fantastic football player, a fantastic wide receiver."

Corey Fuller is on the practice squad of the Detroit Lions. He began his college career running track at Kansas before transferring to Virginia Tech.

For years, the Fuller family has been making the four-and-a-half-hour trek to Blacksburg from their home near Woodlawn High School.

"I've made that drive plenty of times," said Vincent Sr., 55, a student support administrator in the Baltimore public school system. "We do have a pit stop in Harrisonburg. There is a bagel shop that sells breakfast sandwiches, and that's our stop going and coming back."

Kyle (Mount St. Joseph) will miss Saturday's game with a groin injury, but Kendall is expected to start at cornerback. He has started nine of 10 games this season.

The brothers have relished being on the field at the same time this season.

Kyle, sidelined with an injury, could hardly contain his excitement when Kendall made the first of his three interceptions in a 13-10 loss to Duke last month.

"I went back and watched the film," Kendall said. "When the ball was in the air, [Kyle] was running down the sideline. I guess he had a feeling I was going to make a play."

Kyle said he had faith in his brother.

"Before he even caught it, I was just sprinting toward him" to celebrate, Kyle said. "It's a lot of fun seeing him make plays."

Maryland (5-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Site: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

TV: WJZ-TV

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

Series: 15-15

Last meeting: Virginia Tech def. Maryland, 36-9, on Nov. 14, 2009

Maryland offense vs. Virginia Tech defense: Virginia Tech has won the past five meetings. The Terps have not won in Blacksburg since 1949. Maryland did not score a touchdown in its last outing — a 20-3 loss to Syracuse — and will be without injured left tackle Moise Larose (foot) and wide receiver Levern Jacobs (concussion). The Hokies give up 263.1 yards per game, fewest in the conference. The front seven has five seniors, and each has started at least two years.

Maryland defense vs. Virginia Tech offense: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has not always been the most popular player in Blacksburg, particularly when he turns the ball over. But Thomas was 25-for-31 for 366 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's win over Miami. The Hokies gained 549 yards overall. Junior linebacker Cole Farrand — Maryland's leading tackler — returns from a concussion. Linebacker L.A. Goree returned from a back injury and had three tackles against Syracuse last week.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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