Wide receiver Corey Fuller was selected by the Detroit Lions with the third pick of the sixth round of the NFL Draft, No. 171 overall.
The Baltimore native had grown tired of watching on TV and walked outside for a break when he got a call from a Michigan phone number. It was Detroit coach Jim Schwartz.
“It feels great. It’s hard to breathe right now,” Fuller said, an hour after he’d been selected. “I don’t know if I’m still dreaming or what.”
He was the first Tech player to be selected. That’s the lowest the first Virginia Tech player has been selected in a draft since 1993, when none were taken.
But Fuller’s selection wraps up a meteoric rise in football circles, from also-ran prior to last spring to NFL draft pick, something he didn’t think would be possible until late last season.
‘This time last year, I would say even the start of the season this year, my mindset was hopefully I can get a shot at free agency, hopefully I can have a pretty decent year,” he said. “I came in when my name was called, I took advantage of it and now I’m here.”
Fuller, who ran track at Kansas earlier in his college career but transferred to Virginia Tech in 2010, burst onto the scene as a senior, rising up the depth chart following D.J. Coles’ knee injury and becoming the one of the Hokies’ most reliable pass catchers. He caught 43 passes for 815 yards, second on the team in both categories, and tied for a team-high with five touchdown receptions.
Fuller’s speed — he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash time at the combine — turned some heads.
“He’s an interesting guy,” analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on ESPN’s broadcast. “He really burst onto the national scene. Had a nice year. He’s raw in terms of route-running, a little inconsistent at times. But Corey Fuller really stepped up this year.”
His family connection helped him land in Detroit. Fuller said he didn’t talk to the Lions at all in the lead-up to the draft, not even at the combine. But Schwartz coached Fuller’s older brother Vincent, who was a seven-year NFL safety, as a defensive coordinator in Tennessee and for one year in 2011 in Detroit after Schwartz got the head coaching job.
“He was just saying that he’s been following me since high school,” Corey said. “He wants me to have the type of character that [Vincent] has, come in and work hard and do everything I can do to help out the team. …
“I just know Detroit is a city where you roll your sleeves up and get to work. And that’s what I’m ready to do.”
Corey is the second-oldest of the football-playing brothers from Baltimore — all of whom have or will attend Virginia Tech. Vincent was a fourth-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2005. Kyle is a rising senior with the Hokies while Kendall is a highly-touted incoming freshman.
It’s possible all four could be NFL Draft picks eventually.
“That’d be great,” Corey said. “We never really talk about it like that. But I know Kendall and Kyle, I know their work ethic, I know the talent that they have now. When it comes down to it, I don’t think they have any reason not to do it as well.”