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Va. Tech's Kendall Fuller has chance to carry on name

BLACKSBURG

It's not right to say a burden has been lifted from Kendall Fuller's shoulders now that his older brother Kyle is in the NFL, but he does admit to feeling liberated by the removal of two small letters from his jersey nameplate.

"A lot of guys will call me KE, because me and Kyle had KY and KE on our jersey last year," Kendall said. "I told them this year, I'm just rocking the Fuller."

Virginia Tech's favorite football family is down to its last member, with Baltimore brothers Vinnie, Corey and Kyle all having turned their Virginia Tech success into NFL gigs. Kyle's currently at Bears camp, making an early impression, while Corey is making a push for a roster spot with the Lions.

Kendall, meanwhile, enters Year 2 of his college career after a freshman All-American campaign at cornerback during which he finished with 58 tackles, a team-high six interceptions and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Expectations for an encore aren't tempered, not for someone ESPN ranked as the 37th-best player in the country, someone Sports Illustrated put on its first-team preseason All-American team this week.

"(I'll) just try to get to the next level, try to be the best in the country," Kendall said. "I don't think anybody will get complacent.... I would think that everybody is trying to strive to be the best."

"I'm pretty sure it's exciting for Kendall," safety Kyshoen Jarrett said, "wanting to see his brother go along, but two, probably not to be, 'Oh, this is Kyle Fuller's little brother.' Now he's established his own foundation."

For as strong as Kendall's freshman season was - his six picks were a Hokies freshman record, eking out classmate and fellow sophomore starter Brandon Facyson's five - he has areas in which to improve.

"Kendall has a gifted skill set, and he's so smart mentally, but he's going to continue to get smarter mentally if he's able to still slow the game down more," secondary coach Torrian Gray said.

"I think last year at times I would get too lazy and give up a play," Kendall said. "Coach (Bud) Foster and coach Gray, they always talk about if you get (lax), one play can cost you the game. So just being tuned into every single play and just try not to give up too many plays."

His natural skills put him a cut above the rest, however. Both Foster, who has been Tech's defensive coordinator for 20 years, and Gray, who has coached the secondary for nine, said Brandon Flowers was the best defensive back the Hokies have had. But they can't help but see Kendall's potential.

"He's had a great spring, he's had an outstanding summer and he's having an outstanding camp," Foster said. "Sometimes DBs, you don't notice them because nobody is throwing to them or he's taking everything away. That's what he's doing right now.

"I'm hoping in a couple years, he's going to be the best one. He's a lot like Brandon Flowers, a lot like his brother. He's a little bigger, a little more physical, I think, than Kyle can be. So he's kind of in that line with Brandon, being a physical guy at the point of attack. But he has a great IQ."

Kendall got a preview of what might be in store in a few years when he attended May's NFL Draft in New York with his brother, sitting in the green room as Kyle went 14th overall to the Chicago Bears.

The coolest person he met? Buffalo linebacker and Oakland Raiders pick Khalil Mack, who worked out where Kyle and Corey had and greeted Kendall as if they went way back.

"I think when most people meet one of my brothers or two of them, they kind of feel like they've met all of us," Kendall said with a laugh. "So he was kind of cool with it, came and dapped me up and things like that."

It's not a bad group to be lumped in with, even if Kendall is trying to build his own reputation.

"I think last year I was just trying to build on my own name as well," Kendall said. "... Even if I am mentioned as Kyle's little brother, that's not too bad."

Posted to: College Football Sports Va. Tech Football Virginia Tech football

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