Former Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller grew up chasing his two older brothers around the football field and track, engaging in a constant competition for bragging rights at Woodlawn High near the family home.
Now, the Mount St. Joseph graduate has officially followed them into the NFL.
Fuller became the third Fuller brother to be drafted into the NFL on Thursday night as the Chicago Bears selected him with the 14th overall pick as he parlayed his aggressiveness, instincts and mobility into a prime draft position.
Fuller became the highest-drafted member of his family, following older brothers Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller, a sixth-round draft pick last year, and retired safety Vincent Fuller, a 2005 Tennessee Titans fourth-round selection who played seven years in the NFL.
"We don't really compete too much about who goes first as far as the draft, but it's definitely been a blessing," Fuller told The Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. "I'm happy to finally be a part of it now as an NFL football player and carry on that tradition.
“It's definitely an exciting feeling. I'm looking forward to going to Chicago and being a part of that great organization. They're known for defense, so that's a great feeling to join the Bears."
The Bears displayed steady interest throughout the draft process in Fuller, bringing him in for an official visit and also working him out privately on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va.
Fuller joins a Bears secondary that already has veteran cornerbacks in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings in place to mentor him.
"It means a lot to go there and learn from those guys," Fuller said. "I'm looking forward to soaking up as much knowledge as possible."
A four-year starter for the Hokies, Fuller is also the first Virginia Tech cornerback to be picked in the first round since the Atlanta Falcons selected DeAngelo Hall in 2004. With Fuller’s selection, this marks the second consecutive year a Baltimore native was drafted in the first round as former Dunbar star Tavon Austin was selected eighth overall a year ago by the St. Louis Rams.
“It’s just excitement,” Vincent Fuller said in a telephone interview. "It’s a blessing to have a brother who got drafted in the first round. To see him realize his dream is just awesome."
For Fuller, being picked by the Bears marked the culmination of his draft stock steadily climbing since he was forced to miss the final five games of his senior year with a sports hernia injury that required surgery and prevented him from playing in the Senior Bowl.
When Fuller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February, that cemented his draft status as the final box he needed to check off. He also displayed his all-around athleticism with a 38.5-inch vertical leap, a 10-8 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds a dozen times.
Fuller doesn’t lack speed, barely being edged by his brother, Corey, who has 4.37 speed, during a race in March at Woodlawn between himself, his older brothers and youngest brother, Kendall, a freshman All-American last season for the Hokies whom many believe is the most talented member of the family.
Fuller was a second-team Walter Camp All-American selection and a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection as a senior despite being limited to 24 tackles, two interceptions and 10 pass deflections. Fuller played 507 snaps last season, 438 on defense and 69 on special teams.
"Kyle Fuller is one of my favorite players in the whole draft," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said during a conference call prior to the draft. "Kyle Fuller is my No. 1 corner. He has it in his DNA.”
Fuller had already made an impression on NFL scouts even before last season with 52 tackles and two interceptions as a junior and 65 tackles as sophomore with 14.5 tackles for losses, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder displayed plenty of versatility at Virginia Tech, lining up all over the secondary as he shadowed top receivers and was also utilized as a blitzer and as a physical tackler in run support.
"I'm a tough, physical player, a versatile player who can play multiple positions," Fuller said. "I can make plays. I love to tackle. I will work hard and definitely do what it takes to make an impact and contribute to the team."
Fuller emerged as a hot commodity this spring, auditioning for multiple teams. He visited the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and the Oakland Raiders with private workouts for the Colts and Carolina Panthers.
“I felt like I definitely fit in," Fuller said of his visit to Chicago. "I couldn’t get a vibe on who was interested, but I’m definitely happy to be a Chicago Bear.”
Ultimately, it was the Bears who made Fuller their first-round draft pick.
Now, he figures to compete for an immediate starting job in a secondary that was sorely in need of an injection of youthful talent.
"Extremely happy to have Kyle Fuller be a new Bear,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said during a press conference. “This is a player that is universally loved in our building."