When the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech with the 14th overall pick in the NFL Draft, most people were stunned.
The Bears passed on star safety prospects Haha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor out of Louisville to draft a cornerback when the Bears already had two capable corners, Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings. It seemed Fuller was destined to be a backup, at least for his rookie season.
After Tillman went down in week two with a triceps injury, it was Fuller’s time and his impact was immediate.
Fuller subbed in for the injured Tillman against the 49ers and intercepted quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice in the fourth quarter, keying the Bears’ victory. The next week, Fuller recorded another interception and forced two fumbles as the Bears beat the New York Jets 27-19.
Kyle Fuller’s impressive performance this season has put him on top of the NFL’s stats sheets as he currently leads the NFL with five turnovers and is tied for first with three interceptions. His performance through the first four games of the season earned him the honor of NFC defensive rookie for the month of September. Fuller however isn’t satisfied.
‘‘That’s a good honor,’’ Fuller said, ‘‘but still, I’m just trying to get better every week.’’
Fuller’s performance in October has been just as impressive. Two weeks ago against Carolina, Fuller faced off against the offensive rookie of the month, receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Fuller handled Benjamin with ease, allowing only three receptions for 38 yards on 11 targets.
On Sunday against the Falcons, Fuller was at it again. He limited Julio Jones, a top-five wide receiver, to only four receptions for 68 receiving yards on 12 total targets. Fuller also forced a fumble on Jones but it was later recovered by the Falcons.
Now mentored by Tillman, Fuller has adopted the injured Tillman’s aggressive style of play on both coverage assignments and forced fumbles. This includes the “Peanut Punch”, in which Tillman and now Fuller literally punch out footballs out of receiver’s hands at every possible opportunity, leading to a high number of forced fumbles.
Coming from a football family, Kyle Fuller knows what it takes to be a football player in the NFL. Kyle’s oldest brother, Vincent, is a retired safety and his older brother, Corey, is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. The youngest Fuller brother, Kendall, is presently playing cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Fuller doesn’t have the outspoken personality like star cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson but has proven to have the same tendency for making big plays. Fuller doesn’t want the lime light that Sherman and Peterson receive. He just wants to play football.
‘‘I’m just being myself,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just low key, doing what I’ve got to do and staying out of trouble.’’
Kyle Fuller, the soft-spoken cornerback, is taking the NFL by storm and is quietly becoming one of the best defensive players in the league.