The following article ran in the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Program.
- A member of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team, which was named in 2002.
- One of just six North Carolina players to twice earn First-Team All-America honors.
- One of just three defensive linemen ever to make All-ACC for three straight years.
- Coached by Dick Crum.
- Becomes the fifth Tar Heel player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
At North Carolina, the mention of defensive tackle William Fuller conjures up visions of a relentless tackler whose speed allowed him to slither through offensive lines with his 6-3, 278-pound frame.
His No. 95 has been retired by North Carolina, where he is also in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He is one of two Atlantic Coast Conference defensive legends in the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class that was inducted in December at the Waldorf along with Florida State’s standout linebacker Derrick Brooks.
“Derrick and William were two of the greatest defensive players—both in this league and nationally,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, who was North Carolina’s director of athletics during Fuller’s playing days.
Fuller is one of just a handful of linemen to make All-ACC three straight years. He is on an elite list that includes Clemson’s William Perry (1982-84), North Carolina State’s Dennis Byrd (1965-67), Maryland’s Bruce Mesner (1984-86) and North Carolina’s Greg Ellis (1995-97). Fuller was a First Team All-American as a junior, adding consensus First Team All-America accolades his senior season in 1983.
Fuller set the still-standing North Carolina school record of 57 career tackles for loss. His single-season tackle for loss totals of 22 in both 1981 and 1983 were school records at the time. North Carolina went to three straight bowl games during his college career, picking up victories in the 1981 Gator Bowl and the 1982 Sun Bowl and compiling a 26-10 record. A team captain as a senior, he finished his career with 225 tackles and 20 sacks, and he earned invitations to both the Hula Bowl and the Japan Bowl.
Fuller started his professional career with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the United States Football League before moving to the National Football League where he played a total of 13 seasons with three different teams: Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers. He was a four-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl selection.
“People always talk about what happens when the cheering stops,” Fuller said when he claimed UNC’s 2005 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award. “For me, the cheering never stopped. I just see so many opportunities out there. I’m excited about business… But that’s not all I am interested in because I know where I came from, have never forgotten where I came from.”
To that end, Fuller became an excellent businessman in real estate and redeveloped areas in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.
He has been involved in various charities over the years, hosting the William Fuller Tournament in Houston for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and raising nearly $5 million for the cause. Fuller’s father suffered from blindness due to diabetes and passed away in 1995. Fuller, who also hosts an annual golf tournament and auction event for the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic, endowed a scholarship at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina.
A noted philanthropist, Fuller has served on various boards and is involved with the United Way, Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House, Philadelphia Services for the Blind and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.