By Matt Krumrie, NFLHS.com
William Fuller played 15 years in the NFL with the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers. He accumulated over 100 sacks in a career that could land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He is a businessman who is heavily involved in his real estate development company. He is a husband and a father of four girls, with his oldest daughter currently attending Duke University. He is a person who has been successful on the football field, in business, and as a family man.
But to the football players at Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, he is simply known as Coach Fuller, and that’s just the way Fuller wants it.
The former NFL Pro Bowler recently completed his first season as an assistant coach/defensive coordinator under head coach Steve Allosso at Cox High, a school with an enrollment of 2,160 that competes in Division 6, the largest division in Virginia high school football. The team went 2-8 this fall, but with Fuller and Allosso on staff, the players learned about a lot more than Xs and Os and wins and losses.
“There were so many people who helped me along the way on and off the field when I was growing up, I wanted to give back to these kids and have a positive influence in their life, whether it was about football, or the game of life,” Fuller said.
When Fuller joined the staff -- after he and Allosso were put in touch through conversations at a youth basketball game -- Allosso wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He quickly found out. After the fourth practice of the season in August -- in the hot summer heat and the second of a grueling two-a-day practice session -- Allosso was talking to the 115-member team, getting the guys pumped up and talking about the upcoming season. Players were tired, the coaches were putting in long hours, and the temperature was near 100.
But while addressing the team, Allosso looked over his shoulder, and there was Fuller, putting away equipment, putting away practice dummies, and taking the burden off the players and coaches. He wasn’t asked to do it, he just did it on his own. That was the defining moment, Allosso said. Right then, right there, he knew he had a gem not only as a coach, but as a person.
“William was absolutely priceless,” said Allosso. “When he first volunteered to be a part of the staff, I didn’t really know what to expect. But this is the honest truth, except for once when he had a business commitment, he was there every single practice, every single meeting and every single game -- he even went to the JV games. It was amazing, here is this guy who played in the NFL for 15 years, giving his all. The kids saw this and really took to William, it was a huge statement that he was there for them, not him.”
Fuller is the first to admit that he was fortunate to have such a successful football career. But he also set himself up to be successful after his playing days were over. He knows not everyone will make it to the NFL -- or even have a chance to play college football. But he also knows that if they get an education and set goals, they can succeed at anything in life.
“I have guys that I played high school football with that have passed away, and I have former teammates who have fallen on hard times,” Fuller said. “It breaks my heart to see that happen to good people. I don’t want that to happen to these kids. If I get that message across to them, then they will benefit from that.”
The players also benefited from his football knowledge, although Fuller joked that some players didn’t know he was a former NFL star until he brought the football cards to practice to prove it. Next thing you know, players wanted autographs for their parents and family, and were asking questions about his experiences in the NFL.
“I guess they didn’t believe me, but those cards proved I was the real deal,” Fuller said with a laugh.
Allosso, who is a special education teacher and track coach at the school, is just as passionate. A successful businessman who made a nice living as owner of a cutting-edge technology company before he sold his share, Allosso is a wanted man in the corporate world. But his true love is with the kids at Cox, on and off the football field.
“Steve might talk about what I have done, but I tell you what, he is as dedicated as I have ever seen,” Fuller said. “We need more people like him teaching our kids.”
Teaching is what both Fuller and Allosso emphasize. In the 40-year history of the football program at Cox, the school has only six winning seasons. While there are individual standouts on the team, Cox is not a school where recruiters are banging down the door searching for the next All-American. But that doesn’t matter to Fuller. He is a part of a diverse staff at Cox that includes a female coach and an ex-Navy SEAL. Fuller lives within a mile of the school, and after driving by everyday and seeing kids practice in the past, he was eager to work with the kids, and plans to do so again next season
Fuller said he still pays attention to the NFL today, and roots for players -- such as Emmitt Smith and Bruce Smith -- more than a specific team. He admitted he missed the game the first year he was out, especially the camaraderie with the guys. But he is now focused on being there for his family, succeeding in business, and being a mentor and positive influence for the kids at Cox High.
“A lot of kids these days don’t have any idea of what the future holds,” Fuller said. “I’ve been in the real world and witnessed what life is all about. If I can give these kids an edge I am going to do it.”
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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