C.J. Fuller: A look back at a player who wanted to prove his doubters wrong


by - Senior Writer -
Fuller last season at Virginia Tech
Fuller last season at Virginia Tech

“I just wanted the chance to prove people wrong.”

Those words tumbled around in my head late Wednesday. Shortly after leaving football practice and head coach Dabo Swinney’s media interview session, a text crossed my phone, the kind of text you never want to receive.

C.J. Fuller has passed away. Fuller? He’s too young, too healthy, too much life in front of him. But complications with seizures following knee surgery robbed us of a young man who, by all accounts, was putting his life back together. After his recent trouble, Fuller was putting in the time and the work to turn his life around, and one person told me that Fuller was wanting to once again prove people wrong.

In one of our last interviews with Fuller, just a year ago, Fuller sat down with us and told us that he was appreciative of the chance to earn carries as Clemson’s starting running back. He knew about the talent of Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster, but all he wanted was a chance.

Coming out of high school, many wondered whether Fuller could play running back at this level. Some saw him as more of defensive back. Some criticized the Clemson coaches for the offer. Others wondered if he was merely the by-product of a Wing-T system at Easley.

Fuller didn’t care, and he told us that he had been fighting for his chance all of his life.

“I just wanted the chance to prove people wrong,” he told us last September.

It’s very obvious from the sheer number of former players who contacted me last night that Fuller was held in high regard by those he spent every day with at football. He worked hard, always had a smile, and seemed at ease around everyeone he met.

Former Clemson safety Robert Smith wrote this on Facebook about his former teammate, who also wore No. 27.

When you first arrived to campus my first words to were “ You are going to have to wear they number in pride.” You looked back at me and smiled and said “yes sir.” I laughed and said I’m your teammate not your coach and we laughed. Every time we were in practice I would say to you “I’m the real 27.” All you would is smile and laugh. Never have I ever seen you mad about anything. Every time you saw me you would walk up to and say “Whats up Rob!” with a smile of course. CJ Fuller, Lil bro you will always be missed and loved. I heard the news it didn’t really stick. This morning I woke up and cried. The first time I’ve lost a teammate that I’ve played with. That bond you build is stronger than you think. When that person passes you feel the hurt in that bond more than you ever expected. I love you bro. Condolences out to your family as we lose a great young person. I know personally from all your teammates we will truly miss you. Rest easy 27!

The Clemson football team has been on emotional roller coaster for ten days now, and the sense I got Wednesday after practice that the team was ready for some normalcy. Fuller’s death changes all of that, and I am sure that many of the coaches and players will go into Saturday’s game at Wake Forest with heavy hearts.

I will always remember the touchdown catch against South Carolina and the kickoff return against Alabama in the National Championship game, but Fuller was about more than football. He was about overcoming the odds, and he was about proving everybody wrong.

Rest in Peace, C.J. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone….your journey here is complete, and hope you realize that you touched everyone you came into contact with, whether it was a coach, a teacher, a player, or even doubting media members.

Fly high.

NOTE: Robert Bradley sent us a list of Fuller’s high school accomplishments

CJ Fuller, Easley High School

5-foot-10, 201 pounds, Running Back

Parents: Charlie and Christy Fuller

Set school rushing record with 2,090 yards as a junior

Also had 101 yards receiving and 123 yards in kickoff returns for 2,314 yards

CAREER

Rushing yards: 3,381

Receiving yards: 401

Kick return yards: 241

All-purpose yards: 4,023

Rushing touchdowns: 27

Receiving touchdowns: 6

Total touchdowns: 33

• As a sophomore:

Rushed for 712 yards (second on team)

Rushed for 7 touchdowns

Scored 52 points on eight touchdowns and two 2-point conversions

Averaged 6.1 yards per rushing attempt

Had only interception of his career vs. Greenwood

Credited with two passes broken up

Topped 100 yards in the 10th game against Wren with 138 yards on just 11 carries.

Season high 15 rushing attempts vs. Wren in regular-season finale.

• As a junior:

29 percent of rushing attempts (60) went for 10 yards or more.

Rushed for 19 touchdowns

15 touchdowns of 27 or more yards

13 touchdowns or 40 or more yards

Only tackled behind the ling of scrimmage 13

22 rushes of more than 25 yards

10 rushes of more than 10 yards vs. Westside (season high)

10 games of 120 yards or more

Season and career high of 309 yards vs. Wren

Went over 150 yards eight times (and had 149 in another game)

Rrushed for 237 vs. Westide, 223 vs. Greenwood and 258 vs. Hillcrest (718 yards) in a four-week period.

Career long 91-yard rushing touchdown vs. Laurens

• As a senior:

Totaled 850 all-purpose yards

Rushed for 579 yards on 193 attempts to average 3.0 yards per attempt

Led team with 32 receptions for 227 yards

Had two receiving touchdowns and one rushing

Season high 127 yards on 29 attempts vs. Hanna.

Also had 29 attempts vs. Mann.


2011 2012 2013 Career

Rushing

Attempts 117 204 * 193 * 514

Gain 729 2,119 * 653 * 3,501

Lost 17 29 74 120

Net Yards 712 2,090 * 579 * 3,381

Avg.Carry 6.1 10.2 * 3.0 6.6

Touchdowns 7 19 * 1 27

Long 55 91 * 51 * 91

Avg. Game 54.8 174.2 * 52.6 * 93.9

Receiving

Number 5 5 * 32 * 42

Yards Receiving 73 101 227 401

Avg Per Catch 14.6 20.2 7.1 9.5

Touchdowns 1 3 * 2 6

Long 33 43 34 43

KO Returns

Number 3 6 3 12

Yards 74 123 * 44 241

Avg Per Return 24.7 20.5 14.7 20.1

Touchdowns 0 0 0 0

Long 34 30 17 34

* — Led team

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