December 15, 2015
Football at Tech has been part of a family tradition for the Fuller family

(The following story originally appeared in Inside Hokie Sports two years ago and has been updated, including the addition of Kendall Fuller and his recent decision to make himself available for the 2016 NFL Draft)

By Jimmy Robertson

Most people in southwest Virginia grow up as Virginia Tech fans and most remember their first experiences at Lane Stadium.

They remember the crispness of the autumn air, and the sea of orange and maroon mixed in with the gold and red hues of the leaves on the trees. They remember the smoke from various tailgates lazily floating in the air. They remember the scent of hot dogs and hamburgers cooking slowly on grills and the sizzle of grease on the burners.

They remember kids wearing their jerseys and catching footballs and dodging tacklers on many of this campus’ grassy areas, pretending this day is their day to score the winning touchdown. They remember walking through the iron gates into a football fortress and sitting shoulder to shoulder with folks, who, on that particular day, are family members. They remember the clamor, the undeniable din that occurs when the Hokies storm out of the tunnel, onto the field, and for the most part, onto victory.

But such experiences aren’t exclusive to residents of the commonwealth’s western flank. Just ask a family from Baltimore whose firstborn happened to be a member of the football squad several years ago. His decision afforded them sweet seats around the 40-yard line or so directly behind the Hokies’ bench. This was the picture of heaven.

“We loved it,” said Kyle Fuller, who once started at cornerback and is the brother of former defensive back Vinnie Fuller, who played at Tech from 2001-04. “We used to get the turkey legs that they sell and eat those in the stands. We’d go into the locker room after the game. Vinnie would come over and grab us and pull us over the wall. It was a kid’s dream, definitely.”

Corey Fuller, another brother and a former wide receiver on the Hokies’ team from 2010-12, echoed similar thoughts.

“I remember the first game we came to, and I asked him [Vinnie] what it was like to play in front of that many people. I was amazed at how many people were watching them play football,” Corey said. “He’d always come and grab us over the rail, and we’d go back in the locker room and hang out with the team. That was just the coolest thing ever. We loved to tailgate and throw the football around. I loved it.”

Their eyes sparkled at the memory. Corey and Kyle Fuller, and Kendall Fuller – the youngest brother – played on the same piece of turf that served as the home of many of their older brother’s exploits.

Vinnie Fuller – eight years older than Corey and nearly 10 years older than Kyle – earned honorable mention All-ACC honors his senior season and helped the Hokies to their first ACC championship. He went on to play seven seasons in the NFL, most of those with the Tennessee Titans.

Partly because of him and because of the fun they had as kids at Lane Stadium, Corey, Kyle, and Kendall all wound up at Virginia Tech, too. Of course, that’s what brothers do. Once one comes to Tech, the others usually follow suit. Under retiring head coach Frank Beamer, 25 brother combinations found their way to Blacksburg. The sons of Vincent and Nina Dorsey-Fuller were no different.

Yet the latter three brothers took alternate routes. Fortunately, gridiron glory has waited for all three.


Growing up in Baltimore, Corey Fuller never dreamed that his college experience would resemble the Wizard of Oz. He never anticipated going down the Yellow Brick Road.

Corey played quarterback for Woodlawn High’s football team, loved basketball and was an All-American on the track and field team. He resembled his father in that regard, as Vincent Fuller ran track at Morgan State.

Blessed with ability and wanting to get his education paid for, Fuller accepted a track scholarship to Kansas, where he planned on training in the triple jump. The Kansas coach had connections, and like any young man, Corey’s dreams took on Olympian proportions.

“One of the Kansas coaches had called me, and I had gone down there for a visit,” Corey said. “He was training other Olympians in my event, so I thought it would be a good chance to go down there and train with people who had been to the Olympics and learn some things from them. That was the main thing that sent me there.”

He went to Kansas on a partial scholarship, one that paid 80 percent of his freight – a rather healthy chunk for an Olympic sport athlete. He actually performed well out there, placing in the top three of the triple jump in six of the eight indoor meets in 2009.

But the Yellow Brick Road had some potholes. He missed home. He missed his family. He missed playing football. The head football coach at the time, the portly Mark Mangino, was agreeable to letting Fuller come out for football, but the track coaches refused.

By then, Kyle – the younger of the two by 18 months – had committed to Virginia Tech. The shrewd recruiting of Tech receivers coach Kevin Sherman led to the Hokies being the first to offer a scholarship to Kyle, and he decided to follow in Vinnie’s footsteps instead of following Corey’s to Kansas.

Kyle then planted a seed, putting thoughts into Corey’s head about joining him in Blacksburg. The idea ultimately sprouted. Their father contacted Sherman about the possibility of Corey coming to Blacksburg and joining the program. Beamer gave his blessing,

“I knew it would be good for him,” Kyle said. “I thought he’d be more comfortable. I didn’t think he was comfortable being so far away in Kansas. I knew being here and being around me that he’d feel more comfortable.

“I know when he first got here, I used to make sure he was all right. He didn’t have a place to stay when he first got here, so I’d make sure he was good. I know he got used to it.”

Prior to the 2010 season, Corey made his way to Blacksburg and walked on to the Tech football team.

He wasn’t in Kansas anymore.


Players on Tech’s roster often joked that the Fuller brothers didn’t talk to each other. They said that Corey and Kyle would never hang out together and that Kendall and Kyle didn’t either – all revelations that are based more in fantasy than fact. Corey and Kyle roomed together, and while they certainly had their own set of friends, they did the things that brothers do.

But brotherly love doesn’t exactly extend to the football field, even when you go head to head against someone who shares your DNA. The two middle brothers definitely tried to get the best of each other, Kyle as the all-conference cornerback versus Corey, the improving wide receiver.

They still do. The two reside in the same division – the NFC North. Corey plays for the Detroit Lions, while Kyle toils for the Chicago Bears.

“When we go out, we both put our best foot forward,” Corey said. “I don’t want to lose to him, and he doesn’t want to lose to me. It’s competitive, but we joke about it later. And we teach each other. I’ll ask him questions, and he’ll ask me questions. It’s a competitive, but fun, experience.”

“It’s pretty cool,” Kyle said. “We’re always competing, but it’s always fun. He’s always messing with me, and I’m always messing with him. It’s a lot of fun. We’re used to it because we always competed against each other growing up. He’s trying to make me better, and I’m trying to make him better.”

On the football field, at least in college, Kyle was the better of the two. Football just comes naturally to him, as it did to Vinnie back during his playing days. He and Vinnie share the bond of being defensive backs, they know defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s schemes and they speak each other’s language. Thanks to help from Vinnie, Kyle became one of the ACC’s best defensive backs and was arguably the Hokies’ MVP on defense as a freshman. Playing three different positions – cornerback, whip and nickel cornerback – he had 65 tackles, including a team-high 14.5 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks. He added two interceptions.

“Vinnie helped me a lot,” Kyle said. “In high school, you’re a lot better than everybody, but he started making sure I did the little things right – stuff I’d have to be better at when I went to the next level. He’d critique little things that I needed to fix. He’s definitely been a lot of help, particularly when I got to Tech because he had played in this defense.”

Corey worked for two years before finally getting onto the field. He worked his way into the rotation at receiver as a senior. He got better and better, starting with his five-catch, 82-yard performance against Georgia Tech in the season opener. By the end of the season, he had caught 43 passes for 815 yards and six touchdowns.

He had planned on going professionally in something other than sports. But those plans have been put on hold now that he works for the Lions on Sundays.

“I always wanted to be a sports commentator, but I changed my major to sociology,” Corey said. “I want to go back home and work with younger kids and be a role model to them.

“I worked with the YMCA in Shawsville [Va., a town near Blacksburg], and it was so much fun. A lot of the kids were from broken families or didn’t have as much as everyone else, and just seeing them smile was amazing. I just love working with kids.”

Unlike Corey, Kyle, a finance major, always dreamed of playing in the NFL. Despite an injury-plagued senior season in which he missed essentially his final five games, he still found a home in the league. The Chicago Bears took him with their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.


Many say that the final Fuller son, Kendall, possesses the most potential of the quartet. He arrived at Tech with the most acclaim, a five-star recruit after leading Our Lady of Good Counsel to a private school state championship. He could have attended any school in the nation, but never really looked beyond Blacksburg.

At Tech, he started as a true freshman, earning Freshman All-America honors and the ACC Rookie of the Year honor after a season in which he had 58 tackles and six interceptions. He followed that by earning All-America honors as a sophomore, recording 54 tackles and two interceptions.

But he injured his knee in an August practice and only played three games this season. Tech’s sports medicine staff shut him down after the Hokies’ win over Purdue, and he ultimately underwent surgery.

On Tuesday, Kendall made the decision to forgo his final season and declare himself for the 2016 NFL Draft. He will rehab his knee and prepare for workouts in front of professional scouts.

If drafted, Kendall will become the fourth Fuller to play in the NFL, marking just the second family in NFL history to have four siblings play in the NFL (the Browners, with Ross, Jim, Joey and Keith).


Corey, Kyle and Kendall Fuller have future plans, and most of them involve helping others. They joined in helping their oldest brother with a football camp this past July at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore in what was the first “Fuller Family Football Camp.”

But in the short term, there is football to be played. It’s to be played at locations throughout the country. That’s become a way of life for the Fuller family.

They will all feel the air and see the autumn leaves and smell the food on the grills. It’s become their family tradition, one that will continue into the foreseeable future.

And one that started in Blacksburg.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter and on Instagram @vthokiefootball Instagram

HokieSports Shop