It is a worthy goal of any successful person to leave something better than they found it. That’s Steve Fuller, Clemson’s first No. 4.
Sure there were others that came before that wore the No. 4, but no one wore it like Fuller. I know some reading this article might not know of Fuller, it’s understandable since it’s been 45 years since he wore the Paw.
Over the next few paragraphs, I will attempt to introduce you to Fuller, his tenure at Clemson and what he meant and still does to the Tigers future success. I still have wonderful, firsthand memories from when the quarterback reigned supreme in his kingdom, Death Valley.
Steve Fuller was from Spartanburg, a mere sixty-seven miles down I-85 from God’s Country. Even as a young man, he knew where his future path lay, Clemson University. In the dark ages of the 70’s, recruiting was nothing compared to today’s high stakes cat and mouse game. With Fuller it was different, there was nothing he needed to be sold on.
Clemson football was in transition during Fuller’s career as a Tiger. He actually has the unique distinction of playing for three different head coaches. Fuller was recruited by Red Parker. Then, Parker was relieved of his job after four seasons and was replaced in 1977 by Charley Pell.
The 1978 season was one of Clemson’s best, up to that time, with the Tigers compiling a 11-1 record. The Tigers defeated Maryland, going 6-0 in the conference and winning the ACC Championship, their first since 1967. Everything was wonderful until Pell abruptly departed.
Pell, for all of those alive back then, was both loved and reviled. He injected new energy into the once lethargic program, giving the Clemson faithful a belief that they could win and win often. However, he ultimately left Clemson, after his assurance to the contrary. He was headed to Florida. Many, have never forgiven him.
Pell’s greatest legacy was in hiring Danny Ford. Ford inherited the duties of head coach ten days before the epic 1978 Gator Bowl.
Remember Woody Hayes? Fuller was masterful and led the Tigers to a 17-15 victory over the mighty Buckeyes. It was only a small taste of what was to come.
On that warm, December evening in Jacksonville, by the sheer will and leadership of Fuller, this bunch of young men, changed Clemson forever, delivering Ford a bigtime victory, his first, against a college football blueblood. The seeds of future greatness were sown that night.
Fuller, despite a constant state of transition, had done that which he came to do, win. He went on to have a relatively successful NFL career, highlighted by a Super Bowl Championship with the 1985 Chicago Bears. Like I mentioned in my remembrance of William Perry, Fuller also won a Grammy Award for his participation in the song Super Bowl Shuffle.
Honestly, one of the greatest things a mere mortal can ever hope to do, Fuller left Clemson better, much better than how he found it. That’s the reason his name is prominently affixed in the Ring of Honor, inside Memorial Stadium, in his former kingdom, Death Valley. I’m sad for anyone too young to remember those years, but I’ve included, if interested, a video remembering that season to remember, 1978.
Today, he is the offensive coordinator at Hilton Head High School. I hope those young men understand how fortunate they are learning from one of the greatest to ever play the sport.
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