Kyle Fuller has not played a meaningful football game in Baltimore since his senior year at Mount Saint Joseph in 2009. So it is fair to say that the Chicago Bears cornerback is eager about leading his team into Sunday's game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
"I'm very excited," he said Thursday afternoon after the Bears finished practice. "It's something I've dreamed about when I was growing up. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Although Fuller's path has taken him from Baltimore to Chicago via Virginia Tech, his surname is practically synonymous with football in the city. The Fuller family has sent four sons – Vincent Jr., Corey, Kyle, and Kendall – to the Hokies and the NFL.
Vincent Jr., a safety, was a Tennessee Titans fourth-round draft pick in 2005 who played seven years in the league before retiring. Corey, a wide receiver, was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round in 2013 and now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Kendall, a cornerback, was selected by the Washington Redskins in the third round last year.
Their journeys have been a proud if unexpected development for Vincent Fuller Sr. and his wife Nina Dorsey-Fuller.
"One, we're extremely proud," Vincent Sr. said. "And I guess it shows we raised them, and I guess the way we raised them, we raised them right. It's definitely a blessing for it to happen the way it happened because when it all started, that definitely was not the plan. We're just extremely proud of them."
Former Mount Saint Joseph coach Chip Armstrong remembered watching Kyle play in a seven-on-seven football tournament when he was a sophomore and turning to then-defensive backs coach Kraig Loovis (who is now the school's athletic director) and saying, "That kid is going to be something really special."
"He was just a kid that was real quiet, but absorbed everything and didn't make mistakes," said Armstrong, who is a chemistry teacher at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va., and the defensive coordinator for the school's football team. "There was no false movement with him, even in high school. And if you watch him play now, there's no wasted motion at all. He's just an exceptional athlete and a really good kid from a really good family."
As a member of the Gaels football team, Kyle was named to the All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's first team as a junior. He also ran a leg of the 800-meter indoor relay squad that captured the MIAA title in that event.
Following in the footsteps of Vincent Jr. and Corey, Kyle attended Virginia Tech, where he became a four-year starter. Ravens rookie free safety Chuck Clark spent his freshman year with the Hokies learning from Kyle, who was a senior in 2013. Clark said Kyle commanded the defensive backs' respect.
"Kyle was a playmaker," Clark recalled. "He was a leader out there and the veteran in our group. So he was teaching everybody everything. Just watching Kyle on film and watching him when he was out there, he was a baller."
Taken by the Bears with the 14th overall pick of the 2014 draft, Kyle started 30 of 32 games in his first two seasons. But arthroscopic knee surgery before the 2016 season forced him to miss the entire year, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio indicated that Kyle was not pushing himself to return.
But since then, Kyle has started in all five games this season, leading the defense in solo tackles (22) and pass breakups (four) and ranking second in total tackles (24). Fangio recently praised the cornerback's play.
Kyle said injuries are no longer a concern for him.
"I think I've put that behind me," he said. "It's something that comes with the game of football. So I've put it behind me. I'm just working to get better every day."
As for his play thus far, Kyle said there is room for improvement.
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"I feel like I've done some good things. It definitely feels good to see that out there," he said. "But I always feel like I can be better, and that's something I'm working on every day. But I leave that up for other people to say. I'm thankful and will continue to work hard and get better."
Vincent Sr. said he and his wife are planning to meet their son for dinner Saturday night, and then he will connect with an estimated 20 family members and friends after the game.
Asked if the section seating the Fuller family and friends will be the loudest in the stadium, Vincent Sr. replied, "Well, we're going to try to be."
Kyle is appreciative of the support of friends and family, but doubted whether he would be able to hear their cheers from the field.
"If I did, that would be crazy," he said with a laugh.