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Cornerbacks Kyle and Kendall are the third and fourth Fuller brothers to play for the Hokies.
The Roanoke Times|File
Virginia Tech freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller (left) zeros in on Alabama running back Altee Tenpenny in an August game.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Until this year, Virginia Tech cornerbacks Kyle and Kendall Fuller had never played on the same team, despite growing up only a few years apart in the same household in Baltimore. But they did play against each other once.
Kyle, a senior at Mount St. Joseph, took on Kendall, a freshman at Our Lady of Good Council, in an early season 2009 game. The two squared off against each other for one play, with Kyle at corner and Kendall at receiver.
Near the end of it — pushing the limits of drawing a flag — Kyle threw Kendall down to the ground and gave him a friendly, “What’s up?”
“Kyle showed him who the big brother was,” their father, Vincent Sr., said..
Fast forward four years and the dynamic is much different, with both brothers manning the Hokies’ starting cornerback spots.
More than 20 sets of brothers have played for Frank Beamer in his 27 years at Virginia Tech, but the Fullers take that to the extreme.
Kyle, 21, and Kendall, 18, are the third and fourth brothers from the family to play for the Hokies. Vincent Jr., the oldest, was a safety from 2001-04 who was a fourth-round pick by Tennessee and had a seven-year NFL career. Corey transferred from Kansas in 2010, had a big senior season as a receiver and was taken in the sixth round last spring by the Detroit Lions (he’s currently on the practice squad).
Kyle and Kendall are on a track to follow in their footsteps, which, according to Virginia Tech’s sports information department, would make them the second group of four brothers to play in the NFL, joining the Browners — Jim, Joey, Keith and Ross — who did so in the late ’70s.
They went to different schools (two to Notre Dame, two to USC). The Fullers have been strictly Virginia Tech since the turn of the century.
“They’ve been good to us. I think we’ve been good to them,” Vincent Sr. said.
“They’re in the best hands,” their mother, Nina Dorsey-Fuller, said. “They really are. The staff is like family.”
This season has been particularly enjoyable for the parents, who make the trek to Tech for nearly every home game. Nina, who admittedly gets worked up during games, didn’t get much of a break last year, when Kyle was on defense and Corey on offense.
“I couldn’t move from the stands,” she said.
This year both her sons are on the field at the same time — and thriving. Kyle played through hip and knee injuries most of last year, mostly because the Hokies had no other viable options at corner. Healthy this year, he leads the team with 10 pass breakups to go along with two interceptions, earning a spot on Sports Illustrated’s midseason All-America team.
He’s also been more of a leader. When Kendall tussled with Marshall tight end Gator Hoskins at the end of one play earlier this year, Kyle raced across the field to step into Hoskins’ face.
“His expression was, ‘You better leave my brother alone,’ ” said Nina, who has a picture of the moment.
Kendall, meanwhile, has lived up to his hype. The most-touted of his brothers as a consensus five-star recruit, he’s played a big role on Virginia Tech’s second-ranked defense, shuttling between the nickelback and regular cornerback spot and making 28 tackles and two interceptions.
He’s always been advanced for his age, tagging along with Corey and Kyle whenever they would play pickup games.
“Whatever Corey and Kyle did, Kendall was trying to do it,” Vincent Sr. said. “And I can stop saying tried to do it. Kendall was doing it. Whenever they’d be playing, he was able to play with them, and he was able to fit right in.
“So I wasn’t surprised he started right away [at Tech], but I take nothing for granted.”
All four of the brothers were well-prepared when they got to Blacksburg. Vincent Sr., who ran track and played basketball but not football in high school, coached them when they were growing up.
All four played football and basketball and ran track, narrowing their focus once they got to high school based on what would provide a better scholarship opportunity.
Last year, with Kyle finishing up his junior season at Virginia Tech, Kendall put a small scare into the family when he visited Clemson. He ended up picking the Hokies, joining Kyle in the defensive backfield as a starter from the get-go.
“I actually don’t think about it when we’re like out there playing,” Kyle said. “But if I’m just sitting around, I may think about it and think it’s pretty cool.”
Kyle has shown Kendall the ropes.
“I can just remember sitting in the meeting room and just some of the mistakes I would make,” Kendall said. “Coach [Torrian] Gray would be about to say something and he would be just like, ‘Kyle, you got him?’ Things like that.”
Their parents, seasoned veterans in the emotion of college football, don’t worry about them. Vincent Sr. said their work ethic keeps them prepared, so he doesn’t stress when they’re on the field. Nina doesn’t either, although she’s invested.
“I’m a very emotional person,” she said, “so whenever they make any kind of plays, you see the tears.”
The family’s run of success is enough to make most Virginia Tech fans ask if there are any more Fuller children on the way.
“I wish,” Nina said with a laugh. “I’m going through that empty nest syndrome right now. Sometimes I look at my husband and go, ‘We’ll try one more time?’ He’s like, ‘No.’ ”
“We get that all the time,” Vincent Sr. said. “ ‘Are you going to have any more?’ It’s funny. My wife and I just laugh. But we’re finished and right now we’re enjoying them and trying to enjoy our life at the same time.”
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