Will Fuller’s Unwelcome Homecoming

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller is certainly not a man of many words. The junior prefers to let his play on the field do the talking for him. This has gone pretty well for him so far during his time at Notre Dame, as he has emerged as one of the best pass catchers in the nation. As little as Fuller says in most interviews, he has managed to acquire a habit of ticking off opposing teams and fans during them, with no intention of doing so.

Anytime a player of Fuller’s caliber has something to say, many people will closely monitor his remarks. Fuller doesn’t say much, so it is tough to get a true read on his personality. Perhaps this is the reason why Fuller is so commonly misinterpreted. Perhaps opposing locker rooms are in need of some extra bulletin board material and chose to view his comments in a negative light. Perhaps media members are so desperate for a story that they are willing to twist the true meaning of Fuller’s comments. Whatever the case, Fuller somehow continues to find himself as the subject of controversy, even when he isn’t trying to be.

It all started a just over a month ago with a simple tweet. In the week leading up to Notre Dame’s primetime showdown with Clemson, Fuller tweeted, “Clemson promise it’s gonna be #savage.” It seemed as if the entire state of South Carolina was in uproar just a few short hours after the tweet. Members of the Clemson football team even took to the media to discuss their displeasure with what they considered to be trash talk. Back in South Bend, Fuller downplayed the tweet, explaining that he meant nothing negative by it, only that the atmosphere in the stadium would be great as the two top teams faced off. The Clemson twitter world ignored this explanation and continued to highlight a “controversy” that never even existed. Fuller’s explanation of his tweet was not enough to fix his reputation around the nation as a trash talker, which was created when the Clemson football players decided to jump to conclusions about his statement.

It is this distorted reputation that contributed to Fuller’s name appearing in headlines once again this week. Fuller, a Philadelphia native, was asked why he chose to leave the area after high school instead of staying close to home and playing for his hometown team and opponent this week, the Temple Owls. Fuller, being the character the Notre Dame media has come to know, answered rather candidly about his hometown – “I think they offered me like junior year, late junior year… I went over there a couple times just because they are so close to home. I don’t know, I never really thought about going to Temple… growing up, it was always the Eagles, I don’t think college football was really that important in Philadelphia. But [it] seems like [it is] now since Notre Dame is coming to town, so it will be fun.”

Temple fans and media took these comments to heart and took to twitter to deny them and personally attack Fuller. An article was even posted on 247sports.com titled, “Fuller Fires Shots at Temple.” The media seems to be misinterpreting these comments as “shots” just as Fuller’s tweet was not so long ago. Fuller is exceptionally open and positive about his hometown. Visit Fuller’s twitter page and one can see that the pride he holds for being from Philadelphia is hard to miss. He even has multiple tattoos related to his hometown.

Fuller had many positive things to say about the Temple team and program, so why, after he helped to put Philadelphia high school football on the map, would the local media choose to attack him? It is fairly evident that Fuller meant no harm by these comments, especially since he takes so much pride in being from the area. Rather than try to start a conflict, when asked, Fuller simply voiced his opinion about the recruiting process he and so many other Philadelphia – area athletes experience. “I guess [if] they can get some good players out of the area to go to Temple [they can] start to [build] their brand,” Fuller said of what he considers to be recruiting troubles for Temple.

It makes little sense for Temple fans and media to continue to attack Fuller for comments that were not intended to be negative, or to try to prove that he is wrong. Have you all forgotten that the Big East forced the Owls out of the conference in 2004 due to poor attendance and lack of commitment to the football program by university officials? Have you forgotten that your average attendance of 23,000 ranks in the bottom half of the nation, yet your stadium can hold 46,000 more fans? Have you forgotten that this weekend’s game will mark the first time Temple has sold out two games in the same season since 1976? Have you forgotten that this is Temple’s first 7-0 start in program history and College Gameday’s first trip to Philadelphia? Maybe these stats, like Fuller, are being misinterpreted, but these numbers don’t make Philadelphia sound like much of a college football town.

With all due respect to Temple, the program is in no position to dispute these truthful statements made by Fuller. This is the best year in program history, but the team still does not have a large enough following for Philadelphia to be considered a “college football town.” More importantly, however, is the fact that no win/loss records or attendance records permit fans to personally attack a player on social media. Given that Fuller never said anything to harm anyone, it seems unfair and unprofessional to attack him for simply answering a question about the recruiting process in Philadelphia. Any other recruit who had offers to larger schools would probably say something similar about Temple’s brand, or lack thereof, as Fuller did. Maybe instead of jumping to conclusions about innocent comments, Temple fans should focus on enjoying their dream season while it still lasts; which will likely come to an end Saturday if Fuller puts up his usual numbers.

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