Huddled around hundreds of budding young football players Saturday at Woodlawn High School, the Fuller brothers delivered a strong message about work ethic, perseverance and balancing academics with sports.
The presence of three brothers who have played in the NFL and another still playing in college — Chicago Bears starting cornerback Kyle Fuller, 23, Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller, 25, retired former Tennessee Titans safety Vincent Fuller Jr., 32, and 20-year-old Kendall Fuller, an All-American junior cornerback and future top NFL draft prospect at Virginia Tech — imparted more than words during the first annual Fuller Family Football Camp.
"To have a set of four brothers who made it this far in the game of football, it's very rare," said Corey Fuller, a 2013 sixth-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech and a former track standout regarded as the fastest of the siblings. "Our parents pushed us and we motivated each other to get out here working on our own when nobody was out here. A family like ours, we want to give back and help."
Long before Vincent Fuller Jr. built a seven-year career with the Titans, Lions and New England Patriots prior to retiring in 2012 and enrolling in law school at Fordham, the family made it a point to hop the fence at Woodlawn for a series of grueling football and track workouts.
Growing up a few blocks from the high school, the brothers had outgrown the home of their parents, Vincent Fuller Sr. and Nina Dorsey-Fuller, and needed a larger space to work on their craft.
"Honestly, it started just as fun in the backyard," Corey Fuller said. "We got too old for the backyard and got to the fence too fast. We lived right around the corner and would go there to run and throw the ball around. It was pretty cool."
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 373 sets of brothers have played professional football. The Browner brothers (Jim, Joey, Keith and Ross) are the only family to have had four brothers who played in the NFL. The Fuller family could match that distinction as soon as next year if Kendall Fuller declares early for the draft.
"I'm extremely proud," Vincent Fuller Sr. said. "In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be putting on a camp like this, having three sons who've either played or play in the NFL and potentially a fourth one on his way. But I'll take it. We look forward to doing something like this again many, many more times. This camp has been years in the making.
"God willing, Kendall will have the same opportunity his older brothers got playing in the NFL. We just want Kendall to focus on playing football. After the season, we'll sit down and see where everything is and make a decision."
Along with Houston Texans first-round rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson (River Hill) and retired former Atlanta Falcons safety Keion Carpenter (Woodlawn), the Fullers coached 300 campers. The camp included speed work and football, agility and plyometric drills.
"It's good to be able to let these kids have a visual that it's possible to achieve your dreams," said Johnson, the 16th overall pick of this year's draft. "I've known the Fullers for a long time, and it's very special what they've done. It says a lot about their parents and how they raised those guys. To have that bloodline, it's a great thing."
Kyle Fuller was an instant success as a rookie with the Bears last season, starting all but two games after being drafted 14th overall out of Virginia Tech. The Mount St. Joseph alum recorded 64 tackles, four interceptions and three forced fumbles.
"Being here makes me think about all the things I did growing up to get to where I am," Kyle Fuller said. "There was a lot hard work and guidance from our parents and a lot of coaches. It was a mixture of all of that to get to this point."
Kendall Fuller was a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection last season and a third-team All-American. A former ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American, the blue-chip recruit from Good Counsel had 54 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions last season.
"They have awesome parents," Carpenter said. "They did a great job of creating that structure. I'm not surprised at anything. When Kendall gets in the NFL next year, to have four guys playing at the highest level, it's phenomenal."
The Fuller brothers held a race last year at Woodlawn where Corey Fuller edged Kyle Fuller with a strong final kick in the first 40-yard dash. Then, Kyle Fuller won the final heat in an extremely close photo finish that required the Fuller family to review cell-phone videos. Another race is being planned before training camp starts this month.
On Saturday, though, the primary focus was on teaching younger players.
"It was a good turnout, and to be able to give them that knowledge is a blessing," Kendall Fuller said. "My parents set the foundation for our work ethic when we were younger. We're always striving to be the best."