Kyle Fuller’s road to Bears full of healthy bumps from brothers
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter May 10, 2014 12:10AM
BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 03: Cornerback Kyle Fuller #17 of the Virginia Tech Hokies stands on the field prior to the Hokies' game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Lane Stadium on September 3, 2012 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
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Updated: June 12, 2014 6:53AM
When they were boys, the Fullers would sprint home from the corner store, bellies full of chips and Slim Jims and soda and candy. The loser was, well, the loser — until the brothers, minutes later, would start a game of driveway basketball or on-their-knees-football in the basement of their Baltimore home.
Vincent, off in college, had started the competition.
Corey, Kyle and Kendall — whose names sounded the same on purpose, their parents picking a hard ‘‘K’’ noise with each new kid — were born less than five years apart.
They would attend different high schools but share the same loves: football and beating the heck out of each other.
The four worked out together as one went to the NFL, then another and now a third: Kyle, who, like his three brothers, attended Virginia Tech, was drafted in the first round Thursday to play cornerback for the Bears.
Preparation for the biggest job interview of Kyle’s life in March didn’t stop a Fuller tradition: a race on the track at Woodlawn High School, around the corner from their house.
At first, their mother would go, in part to referee. The pit bull, Tyson, ran on the infield. Over the years, their uncle would fire the starter’s pistol. Other family members came, just to watch.
When they ran again in March, the only concession for Kyle’s pending pro day was to shorten the race from 100 meters to 50.
Vincent, 31, played safety for the Tennessee Titans from 2005 to 2010. Corey, a 23-year-old Detroit Lions receiver, spent two years running track at Kansas before transferring to play football at Virginia Tech.
Kyle, 22, was teammates with 19-year-old brother Kendall, the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year as a Hokies cornerback last season. The youngest was always the most feisty in the family.
The brothers always plan to run one time but rarely do.
‘‘I will do everything I can to beat him at whatever it is,’’ Corey said of Kyle. ‘‘When he did beat me, we’d have to redo it.’’
And so they did.
‘‘Corey won the first one by a little bit,’’ Kyle said Friday, wearing mustard dress socks he chose with his brothers’ help. ‘‘But I won the next one.’’
Their competitiveness didn’t stop at the front door growing up.
‘‘One of things I told them was, ‘When we compete, we’re going to be competing on the national level,’ ’’ their father, Vincent Sr., a track coach, said. ‘‘ ‘We’re not going to be competing against just kids from Maryland.’ ’’
That was evident in Kyle, who went from the Hokies’ star 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback to the Bears’ No. 14 overall pick.
‘‘When you think what he can do and you start trying to think what he can’t do, there’s not many can’t-dos in there,’’ Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. ‘‘He can cover. He can tackle. He’s got toughness. He’s smart. The game makes sense to him.’’
In the 2013 season opener against Alabama — Kyle called it his favorite football moment because it was ‘‘my first game with my brother’’ Kendall — he was physical, versatile, a clear future pro.
‘‘Big-time player,’’ Beamer said.
Later in the season, he played inverted safety to try to stop Georgia Tech’s triple-option. Beamer’s staff hatched the plan that week.
‘‘You don’t just throw a kid in there,’’ he said. ‘‘Kyle’s a guy to do this because he does have toughness, but also the skill to do this.’’
His form has little wasted motion, the benefits of having a track-coach father.
‘‘I think that just comes from practice and practice and practice and repetition,’’ Corey said. ‘‘We all just work out like we’ve never worked out before. We’re just trying to make it somewhere.’’
How much is Kyle’s genes? His skill sharpened by competition?
‘‘I used to tell my players: The guys playing in college have to have some natural ability, and they also have to have some determination,’’ said Chip Armstrong, Kyle’s coach at Mount St. Joseph High School. ‘‘If you look at him in street clothes, he looks like a normal guy. He had the ability and the determination and work ethic.’’
In high school, Kyle played receiver and cornerback, returning kicks and punts. He won the league title as a sophomore and became the quarterback as a senior.
He could have been ‘‘one of the best offensive weapons to come out of the area,’’ Armstrong said, but he tore ligaments in his right index finger when it got caught in a jersey. The team lost its next eight games.
Armstrong, who filled out questionnaires for the Bears, Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders, said what Beamer and Emery echoed: Kyle is coachable.
‘‘Tell him something once,’’ Armstrong said, ‘‘and it was immediate.’’
His toughness, Kyle said, ‘‘has a lot to do with the way we were brought up.’’
Which is why he spent the biggest night of his life surrounded by all three brothers and both parents.
As Kyle hugged commissioner Roger Goodell at Radio City Music Hall, Corey smiled.
‘‘I might have been the happiest person ever,’’ Corey said. ‘‘Then I was like, ‘I’m from Detroit. I don’t know if I should put on a Bears hat.’ ’’
His brother had won, but so had he. So, division rival or not, he pulled one over his head.
‘‘I’m a Bears fan,’’ Corey said, ‘‘until I get back to Detroit on Sunday.’’