Corey Fuller is a True Leader

This article was originally published in Bernie's Insiders magazine on August 6, 2002. In this article Frank Derry talks to Corey Fuller about his for younger players and the sacrifices he has made to help the Browns be competitive in 2002.

There are many ways to be a leader on a football team.

You can lead by your hard work on the field.

You can lead by playing at whatever position the coaching staff needs you.

You can lead vocally in the locker room.

You can lead by helping younger players.

And, in this day and age, you can lead by willingly accepting less money for the betterment of the team.

Cornerback Corey Fuller, over the past three-plus years, has done all of the above.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the 5-10, 210-pounder, now 31 years old, is widely regarded as one of the true team leaders on the Cleveland Browns.

Fuller, who signed a five-year contract with the Browns in 1999, had the option to become a free agent this past offseason when the Browns didn't want to pay him the $3.8 million he had coming this season and next. Fuller sat down and renegotiated a pact that will allow him to earn $2 million per year providing he reaches his incentives.

Although "disappointed" with the way everything went down, including his being unprotected for the expansion draft, Fuller said he had no desire to go elsewhere via free agency.

"I stayed here because I feel like this team is on the verge of something big," he said. "I love my teammates. I love the situation. The organization has been fair to me.

"I'm a man of my word. I said I would do five years here and, hopefully, I will get five in. That's what it boils down to, just being a man of your word."

Fortunately, Fuller, after a few bad financial decisions early in his career, learned the importance of preparing for the future.

"Inner-city ball players come from no money, so it's hard to save money," he said. "I made a lot of mistakes with my money at first, but, fortunately, when the Browns signed me to a big contract four years ago, I saved a lot of that money. That made it easier for me to restructure my contract because I wasn't sitting in my house panicking."

The financial lessons he learned the hard way are one of the main things he tries to pass on to the young players.

"I try to be a leader for them on the field, but more off the field because when you come into this business you make a lot of money," he said.

"There are so many sad stories about guys being broke. I think God has blessed me to realize you can't spend as much as you think you can and still have anything left when you're 40, 50 or 60 years old.

"That's the message I try to pass on to the young players. I want to see all these guys make all the money they can, because it's not my money."

He said he tells the young players that even if you don't hit the big jackpot, just being in the league for a half-dozen years should set you for life.

"It's just like boxing," he said. "Some are going to throw jabs and others haymakers. The haymakers are going to make the big money, but if you can jab away for six or seven years even at minimum salary, you are doing good. But you have to realize there ain't no formula for getting rich overnight."

Fuller knows first-hand that hard work on the field, in the classroom and doing what your coaches ask is the formula for success.

Even though he is a cornerback, Fuller never hesitated when asked to play safety in 2000 due to injuries. "When they asked me to do it, I said I would try to do it," he said. "That's the bottom line. That's my idea of what a team and a teammate is all about."

Which is why he emphasizes to the young players to go out and work hard every day and do what you are asked at all times.

Those words might eventually cost Fuller his job, but it doesn't stop him from offering all the advice he can.

"I know I'm going to have to pass the torch sooner or later," he said. "I'd prefer it to be a little later, but I want these guys to know that when they come in (to the NFL), they must respect the business. They need to play hard and try to make a lot of money, but at the same time be a man and be accounted for.

"What I mean by being accounted for is when you are called upon, you step up to the challenge and you go out and represent your team and your family very well.

"You will make a lot of money and, hopefully, you'll save a lot so that when you leave, you won't have any regrets."

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