Photos by Chesapeake Sports Club Member Linda Allen Clifton
Our June 10th Luncheon Speaker was William Henry Fuller, Jr. a former American college and professional football player who was a defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons. Fuller played college football at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and was recognized as an All-American. He initially played professionally for the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the United States Football League (USFL), and after being selected in the first round of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft, he also played the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers of the NFL. During his career and after his retirement, Fuller has done considerable work in raising funds for diabetes research.
Fuller was born in Norfolk, Virginia. He grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, and attended Indian River High School, where he lettered in track, basketball, and football. Fuller graduated from Indian River in 1980.
Fuller attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he played defensive line for the North Carolina Tar Heels football team. He recorded nine sacks and 22 tackles for loss as a sophomore. As a senior he had 81 tackles, a team-leading five sacks, and 22 tackles for loss. For his efforts that season he was awarded All-America and first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honors as well as UNC’s defensive Most Valuable Player award. Fuller was also a finalist for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies, special awards designated only for linemen. While at UNC, Fuller helped lead the Tar Heels to three bowl games, made the All-ACC team three times, and the All-America team twice (1982 and 1983). He graduated in 1986 with a degree in psychology. Fuller was later inducted into UNC’s sports hall of fame, and selected as a member of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Football Team in 2002.
Fuller was selected by the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in the 1984 USFL player draft. He was also selected with the 21st selection in the first round of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL Players by the Los Angeles Rams. Fuller decided to play in the USFL with the Stars, where he played for two seasons, winning two USFL championships and playing with future NFL players such as Bart Oates and Sam Mills. Fuller was granted free agency by the USFL in 1986 and his rights were subsequently traded by the Rams to the Houston Oilers where he started his career in the NFL. After recording a total of 3 sacks in his first two seasons, Fuller emerged in 1988 and tied for the team lead in sacks with 8.5. He was described as the most improved defensive player on the team by head coach Jerry Glanville. After recording 14.5 sacks over 1989 and 1990, Fuller finished tied for second in the NFL with 15 sacks in 1991, and was named to his first Pro Bowl. He followed that up by recording eight and ten sacks, respectively in 1992 and 1993. After the 1993 season Fuller signed a three-year $8 Million contract as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, in part out of a desire to be closer to his off–season home in Virginia. He subsequently played three stellar seasons in 1994, 1995, and 1996. He recorded 9.5 sacks in his first season there (1994) and set a team record for most consecutive games with a sack at seven. Fuller had 13 sacks in each of the following two seasons (1995 and 1996), and was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons with the Eagles. After the 1996 season Fuller signed a two-year $5.6 million dollar contract with the San Diego Chargers, while there his production steeply declined. After two seasons, in which he recorded three sacks each, Fuller retired following the 1998 season. By the time his NFL career ended Fuller had recorded 100.5 sacks becoming one of the few players in NFL history to record more than 100 sacks.
Shortly before the 1995 season Fuller’s father, who was blind at the time due to diabetes, died. Fuller and his father were very close and had filmed a United Way and the NFL commercial together during the offseason. The commercial, which featured an organization for the blind, was not aired until two days after his father’s death. Fuller is also a noted philanthropist, who was actively involved in programs relating to Juvenile diabetes, Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House and the Boys’ Clubs of America during his time in the NFL. He hosts the William Fuller Tournament in Houston for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. The event has raised over $1 million dollars for research to cure diabetes, and Fuller himself has helped raise over $3 million for diabetes research. Fuller currently owns and operates his own real estate development company, Fulco Development, which is based in Norfolk. His company is currently working on development projects in the Hampton Roads region. He has also donated his time as an assistant football coach for Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach. In 2011, Fuller became a radio commentator for the Virginia Destroyers UFL team.