Whether it was who could make the best salad or who could dress the sharpest, Kendall, Kyle and Corey Fuller always wanted to be better than each other.
Competition fueled the brothers from Baltimore when they were young, and it helped them in sports as they grew older.
These intra-family battles may have led to childish fights and arguments, but it never separated the family. It only strengthened it. And when Kendall Fuller announced he would join his brothers in college by committing to Virginia Tech — becoming the fourth Fuller to play football for the Hokies — that family strength was reaffirmed.
"It was hectic with all the kids playing sports and having to do homework checks," Fuller's mother, Nina, said of her household growing up. "But it was a blessing having a very close-knit family."
Kendall Fuller held offers from major programs across the country — Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, California and Oklahoma, just to name a few of about two dozen. He had narrowed his list to Virginia Tech and Clemson before picking the Hokies on Sunday. He is the No. 1 cornerback in the country for the class of 2013, according to Rivals.com, and the No. 3 player overall.
The two elder Fullers, Corey, a wide receiver, and Kyle, a cornerback, didn't pressure their brother into picking Virginia Tech. In fact, after a conversation between Corey and Kendall last summer, the pair vowed to not discuss football or recruiting at all when spending time together.
"He said, 'Why is everything we talk about what schools I'm going to and football?'" said Corey Fuller, who ran track at Kansas for two years before transferring and walking on at Virginia Tech. "I agreed, and since then, we never talk about it."
Kendall Fuller admitted that the recruiting process was starting to weigh on him a little bit, but was relieved there was limited pressure from friends and family to make a decision. With reporters constantly calling and wanting to get any inkling or tip of Kendall's future plans, it did become increasingly stressful.
"A lot of people call your phone and try to hit you up on Twitter," Kendall said. "So I've just been trying to get away from it all."
Even before Kendall was a big-time recruit, Nina Fuller knew her son was destined for excellence on the football field. He didn't want to play flag football as a kid — he was thinking about hitting people at the Pop Warner level right away.
As he grew, Kendall excelled on offense and defense and chose to attend Good Counsel in Montgomery County. Corey and the oldest Fuller son, Vincent, now a defensive back with the Detroit Lions, attended Woodlawn High, while Kyle graduated from Mount St. Joseph. The brothers all spread out, but wound up at Virginia Tech because they looked for similar things in a school.
"I'm looking for a nice family environment," Kendall said. "And somewhere I can develop into a better player."
Competing against each other has taught the Fuller's a lot about football, and a lot about winning and losing. Sometimes you have to be gracious and congratulate the other guy for coming out on top, Corey said.
"Anything you could be a winner, we were competing in," Corey said. "We learned how to have sportsmanship and know how to take a loss."
While her kids grew up battling each other and playing a number of different sports, Nina Fuller said education comes first in her household, and Kendall has always taken care of his schoolwork and really enjoys math. That makes life a lot easier for Nina and her husband, Vincent.
"The ultimate destination is to get a college degree," Nina Fuller said. "Everything else, football, is icing on the cake afterward. You want to get there and get that degree."
Corey Fuller chose to transfer to Virginia Tech in order to be closer to home. He said sometimes when a player gets to a school, the things promised by coaches during the recruiting process don't always come true.
But Hokies coach Frank Beamer has created a family atmosphere in Blacksburg, Va., and it was perfect for the Fuller family.
"I just wanted to feel like I fit in," Corey Fuller said. "A lot of times when they get you there, it's not the same. I wanted to be treated like family. I wanted to have kids there around me who wanted to succeed."
Kendall Fuller will likely see the field early in his career, because his game translates well to the college level, 247Sports recruiting analyst JC Shurburtt said. Fuller has the size and speed to stick with elite receivers and will be well coached under Beamer and his staff.
"He's bigger and stronger than a lot of the other top corner prospects," Shurburtt said. "He's got good size in terms of bulk and size but still has the hips to turn and run."
Shurburtt said getting a pledge from Kendall Fuller is important to Virginia Tech when it comes to perception. With two brothers already at the school and another that also played there, fans expected Fuller to land at Virginia Tech. And if he didn't, it would have made some question what was wrong with the program that caused the rising senior to go elsewhere.
For the Hokies' coaching staff, it's more of a relief to receive the commitment than a cause for celebration.
"Anytime you have a highly regarded prospect with a family connection, the stakes are even higher to sign the kid from a perception standpoint," Shurburtt said. "It matters and feeds into your ability to recruit. Perception is very important, because if you lose a five-star player with two brothers on the roster, I think people look at that and say, 'What's the issue there?'"
Kendall Fuller, despite all the attention he has received, is going into his senior season with the same mindset he's had throughout high school.
He doesn't feel any pressure to achieve at a higher level this fall and is looking forward to follow up an all-state junior year with another strong season.
Virginia Tech is getting "a leader," Kendall Fuller said. "And somebody who's going to work hard right away and take it one day at a time."
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