WASHINGTON -- With one brother who has played in the NFL and two more who suited up for Virginia Tech this fall, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller should be among the most prepared to handle the expectations that come with being a U.S. Army Player of the Year candidate.
On the first full day of the Army Player of the Year Tour, though, Fuller saw just how much impact he can have on those around him when the tour stopped at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington. Fuller and fellow player of the year candidate Max Browne took approximately 50 elementary-age children through a series of football drills and spoke to them about the importance of setting goals and working to achieve them.
"Being a little kid yourself a few years ago, you look up to certain people," Fuller said. "Me and Max going in there, we knew it would make those kids' day seeing where we've gotten. I know that motivates me -- seeing where my brothers go to and knowing I was following in their footsteps. It's definitely a day we'll never forget."
Fuller was impacted himself by the opportunity to spend the day with two decorated members of the U.S. Army -- Soldier of the Year Sgt. Saral Shrestha and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna. The encounter gave Fuller insights he could apply to the pursuit of his goals.
"Me and Max were talking to them and asked what motivated them to keep going," Fuller said. "They were real cool and said you have to just keep on doing it. We could easily say 'forget this,' but if you love it you have to keep working for it.
"We were asking them what types of things do they get ready for when they go back to combat and some of their different workouts. In reality, you have no idea what is really going on out there, and it was cool just to have someone you could talk to and relate to in so many ways."
Fuller's goals will play out over the next four years at Virginia Tech. He committed to the Hokies in July, following in the footsteps of brothers Vincent, Corey and Kyle. Vincent played in the NFL after a successful career in Blacksburg, while Corey and Kyle were members of the 2012 Virginia Tech team. Kendall Fuller counts it as an honor to continue that legacy.
"I went down there for senior day for my brother Corey," Fuller said. "They called Corey's name, and who was with him -- me, Vinny, Kyle and Mother and Father. Everybody started applauding, and it just showed all the hard work my brothers have put in there and the things they have done for Virginia Tech. It just feels good to keep it going down there."
Before Fuller makes the move to Blacksburg to start college, he will finish his high school career on Jan. 5 in San Antonio, Texas, at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Playing for the East team means Fuller will be the one tasked with stopping a West offense led by Browne, his fellow tour participant.
"I am going to talk a lot of trash right now and tell him anytime he throws to my side it is going to be an interception," Fuller said with Browne sitting across from him.
After attending the U.S. Army Junior Combine the past two years and watching former teammates Blake Countess and Stefon Diggs play in the game before him, Fuller is aware of the Army Bowl's tradition.
"From going down to the combine and seeing all the soldiers being so into the game, it is just great playing in front of all those soldiers," Fuller said. "We, as citizens, look up to them so much for what they are doing overseas and all across the world, and it is crazy knowing how much they follow us."
The Hall Trophy will be presented to the national player of the year during the week of the Army Bowl. Past winners of the award include Adrian Peterson, Terrelle Pryor, Bryce Brown and Dorial Green-Beckham. Fuller knows he has stiff competition for the award from Browne, Florida athlete Derrick Henry, Virginia running back Derrick Green and California safety Su'a Cravens.
"Going against players like Max Browne, Derrick Henry and Derrick Green, it definitely would be an honor and I definitely would be blessed to win something like this," Fuller said.
Whether or not he takes the Hall Trophy back with him from San Antonio, Fuller won the day with 50 young children at the Boys and Girls Club who will now be following his career and remembering the hours he spent sharing his time and teaching them the game.