NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the 2015 season unfolded, and Will Fuller picked up where he left off in 2014 – slicing and dicing secondaries like a cable infomercial – the confidence in the junior wideout began to emerge.
Brian Kelly told stories of Fuller coming to the sideline, “demanding” the football and declaring his ability to beat any coverage, anytime, anywhere.
That’s the Will Fuller – named Most Valuable Player of the 2015 Fighting Irish Friday night at ECHOES15 inside Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center -- who morphs into a Superman-like character when DeShone Kizer throws a deep ball and Fuller makes another brilliant, game-changing play.
That’s the Will Fuller with his Irish teammates.
But when the roar dies down, and Fuller sits back and evaluates his game, the soft-spoken, down-to-earth Philadelphian often finds himself overwhelmed with all that has happened the last two years.
For the record, what has transpired is a dazzling 132 receptions for 2,239 yards and 28 touchdowns in just 25 games.
“Of course because that was my dream ever since I started playing football,” said Fuller of the surreal nature of his bombastic on-field announcement that he is one of the nation’s top receivers.
“I still don’t see myself as the MVP. I guess I look at myself as an MVP-type player, but that comes with work ethic and continuing to get better. I know there are still a lot of things that I can get better at.”
It’s that attitude that allowed Fuller to emerge as one of college football’s most dangerous weapons. On one hand, his successes have given him the confidence that he can excel on this as well as the next level. On the other hand, he’s still in touch with his humble beginnings at Notre Dame as a slightly-built speedster who evolved from a player who could take the top off of a defense to one who can now run routes that flummox opposing secondaries.
“My confidence has grown, especially seeing different coverages like the Stanford game,” Fuller said. “After I scored (on a late-second quarter, 73-yard touchdown reception), they started playing some weird coverages.
“That just gives me confidence in the fact that their corners don’t think that one guy can cover me, confidence as far being a competitor. I don’t think I’m outspoken about it at all unless I’m on the field. I don’t like talking about it. I’m just about it on the field.”
After abruptly announcing a few weeks back that he would return for his senior season, Fuller was one of five Irish players to submit a request for an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
“We’ll see. It isn’t here yet,” said Fuller of the evaluation and his ultimate decision.
“I haven’t talked to any important people about it. I haven’t talked to Coach Kelly because he (has been on the road recruiting). I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about what (the evaluation) says yet, so we’ll see.
“I’m just probably going to keep my avenues open. I submitted my papers just to see where I’m at. I’m just going to pray about it, talk to my family about it and make the most educated decision I can.”
Friday night, it was just about Will Fuller and his team, celebrating a 10-2 regular season and, to his surprise, his MVP award.
“I was sitting next to Jaylon and we were talking about it most of the day,” Fuller smiled. “I thought he was going to win it and he thought I was going to win it, so it was pretty funny.
“That’s definitely one of the most important things for me, that my teammates voted on it. It just shows how much trust they have in me. I’m a team guy, so that means the most.”
For now, the focus is Ohio State.
“I wanted to be in the playoffs, so I wasn’t that excited,” said Fuller of the news that the Irish would be taking on the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. “But I am excited to play a great team like Ohio State. They’re defending champions, so we know they’re going to be a great opponent for us. They have a lot of talented players, so it will be a fun game.
“Football is fun for us. There’s no need for extra motivation. If you don’t have any motivation, I don’t think you should be playing the sport. It’s a great opportunity for us. We know this is one of the highest stages.”
A stage upon which Fuller fits quite comfortably.