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Hokies' Fuller ready to hear his name at NFL draft

BLACKSBURG

Waiting to hear a family member's name called in the NFL draft is nothing new for the Fuller family, although they've never heard it in person.

That appears certain to end this year.

Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller will have his entire family - mom, dad and brothers Vinnie, Corey and Kendall - on hand in New York on Thursday for the draft's first round. Fuller is 1 of 30 players who will be in the green room waiting to hear their names called.

"I think it will be a lot of fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Fuller said.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Fuller has been one of the fast-rising prospects in this draft, near or at the top of most lists of available cornerbacks.

He would be the sixth Hokie since 2000 to go in the first round and the first Virginia Tech defensive back to do so since the Atlanta Falcons selected DeAngelo Hall in 2004.

While Fuller's rise up draft boards has accelerated in the last few months.

The cornerback turned in an All-American senior season, but it was cut short by a sports hernia injury that required surgery. He missed almost all of the last six games as well as the Senior Bowl in January.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay gave Fuller a second-round grade before last season.

Although he does a preliminary review of prospects before the year, McShay gets into his extensive study after the season, catching up on a lot of the film many teams, with their large scouting departments, have already seen.

What he saw of Fuller impressed him.

"I just think he's a complete football player," he said. "I think his cover skills are above average to good. I think that his instincts and recognition skills are very good. He's calm. He doesn't' get rattled when you study him on tape. He knows when to take a chance and when to gamble and when not to.

"And his ball skills are outstanding. Excellent ball awareness, tracks the ball well, 38-1/2-inch vertical jump. Plucks the ball away from his frame. Confident hands. Is confident when he attacks the football."

"He has it in his DNA," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, one of Fuller's biggest backers. "He can play on, off, he can play man or zone."

Most of all, though, Fuller tackles. And in a league that's passing at a higher rate than ever before, finding cornerbacks who do more than cover is essential.

"That's one thing that I'm starting to value more and more," McShay said. "It's not just run support but after the catch. Teams are throwing more screens, more underneath stuff, quick hitters, than ever before in the NFL. And with these spread offenses and a lot of the shorter throws, you've got to be able to tackle as a cornerback.

"And there are some guys in this draft that don't. And it scares me. And Kyle Fuller is one of the guys who really excels in that area."

Fuller helped himself by alleviating a few concerns pro teams had. Follow-up reports about his hernia were encouraging, and he ran a 4.49-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine in Indianapolis, not top-end speed but fast enough.

"Then it was over," McShay said. "Just lock him in as a first-rounder and figure out kind of where he fits among the other guys."

Fuller is mentioned with the top cornerbacks in the draft - Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Ohio State's Bradley Roby and TCU's Jason Verrett.

Given the need at the position by NFL teams, he'll likely come off the board sometime from the middle to end of the first round.

That'll be enough for family bragging rights. Vinnie, his oldest brother, was a fourth-round pick by Tennessee in 2005 as a safety. Corey, a receiver, was a sixth-round pick by Detroit last year. Kendall, a sophomore cornerback at Virginia Tech who was a freshman All-American, is on a path to be an early selection whenever he's eligible, although Kyle can set the bar high this week.

Who will take him is as much a mystery to Fuller as it is to everybody else. He met with 12 teams in the last few months, though he declined to say which ones.

"I got a good feeling from all of them, meeting all those coaches," Fuller said. "But in this process, you don't know what's going to happen."

Posted to: College Football Sports Va. Tech Football Virginia

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