The walls of the game room in the basement of the Fuller home in Ashland, Ohio, are filled with framed covers of old Sports Illustrated issues, each of them autographed.
Doesn’t matter who the subject might have been — could be an NFL star to some media schlub. Each cover has been signed, the result of a years-long effort undertaken by Dan Fuller and his son Marcus, the younger of two children Dan has with his wife Patty.
Late each summer father and son would make the one-hour drive east to Canton the weekend of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s induction to get former greats to sign. Or they would write an athlete to request a signature. Whatever it took.
The result is an autograph collection so vast that Marcus, now the quarterback at Brown University, can’t even begin to estimate its size – for not only do the Fullers have all those SI covers, they also have several binders full of trading cards, as well as a bunch of mini-football helmets.
Marcus particularly values QB’s signatures, naturally — not only John Elway, Joe Montana and Joe Namath, but also Michael Vick, who the younger Fuller once tried to emulate (if only on the field). He also treasures the time spent with his dad, and hopes the collection remains in the family for years to come.
Marcus put aside his autograph-collecting a year or two into high school, and moved on to other things. Now he is into collecting memories, and can only hope to add a few before his senior season concludes.
In his second year as the starting triggerman of the Bears’ spread offense, he has thrown for an Ivy League-best 1,259 yards heading into Saturday’s home game against Princeton (4-0). Fuller, whose yardage total is also the 23rd-best in the FCS, has accumulated more than 400 yards three times in four games for Brown (2-2), while completing 64.7 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Fuller emphasized how much it means to work with wide receivers like Brian Strachan and Alexander Jette, who are 1-2 in the Ivy in with 35 and 34 catches, respectively. Another receiver, Troy Doles, leads the league with 505 aerial yards, on 27 grabs.
“They make me look better in a lot of spots, I’ll give them that,” Fuller said. “Obviously it’s a great time, man.”
At the same time he said the Bears are “far from a finished product,” that they must do a better job finishing off drives. That will be particularly important against a team like the Tigers, who hog the ball – they average 231 rushing yards a game, best in the Ivy – and shorten the game. (Though not too much; Fuller put it up no fewer than 71 times in a 27-16 loss to Princeton last year.)
Then again, there’s always more to do, on several fronts. Fuller, who will graduate in December with a degree in business entrepreneurship and organizations, was a market research and strategy intern with the New England Patriots in 2014, then spent the spring of 2015 as the Pats’ business development coordinator, while taking the semester off to preserve his eligibility this fall.
That meant he was around for New England’s Super Bowl victory, as well as the lunacy of Deflategate.
He said it was “certainly unique for me to be able to experience the highs and lows of an NFL front office,” and that the personal experience was invaluable. He also said that the football and business operations “might as well be in two different states.” There was no opportunity for Fuller to tiptoe into the team’s headquarters and gain an understanding of how Tom Brady goes about his business.
“Coach (Bill) Belichick keeps that under lock and key,” Fuller said. “If you don’t have a reason to be there, then you certainly aren’t going to be there, taking part in the action.”
Fuller sees his future in sports management or marketing, and can only hope to latch on with the Patriots (or an organization like theirs) when he is done at Brown.
But in the meantime he is going to try to add to his collection of memories.
Above: Brown quarterback Marcus Fuller has an autograph collection loaded with football hall of famers. (Courtesy David Silverman)