Notre Dame football: Fuller delivers in fine fashion

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Long time coming.

The key, though, at least it happened.

In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, a stunning backdrop to the day, William Fuller took a major step toward coming of age.

The 6-foot, 171-pound receiver for the Notre Dame football team caught two passes for 93 yards, including his first career touchdown — a 46-yarder from Tommy Rees — as the Irish breezed past Air Force Saturday, 45-10.

There wasn't a lot of strategy that went into the second-quarter grab that put the Irish up for good, 14-7. Run fast. Find the ball. Catch the ball.

"I can't even remember (the touchdown play)," said Fuller. "I was just excited. Once I saw the ball in the air, I didn't know how to judge it. It was a good throw by Tommy, though."

As it turned out, it looked like Fuller had done it all his life.

With DaVaris Daniels limited a bit with an injury that head coach Brian Kelly didn't specify, Notre Dame needed a receiver to complement TJ Jones (7 catches, 104 yards, 1 TD). Fuller made his bid to be that big-play guy.

Though he has been listed as a starter in a couple earlier games, Fuller had just three catches for 53 yards heading into Saturday's victory. The recent open date allowed him to make some progress in the rotation.

Or so he thought.

"We had everybody moving in and out, so it was hard to tell," Fuller said of the open-date practices. "Once the opportunity presents itself, you have to give it your best."

Fuller and classmate Corey Robinson both made a statement. Likewise, Robinson caught his first career TD pass — a 35-yarder from Rees.

"I would have liked to have had these guys Week 1 and Week 2 do this," Kelly said of Fuller and Robinson. "You like to get this contribution from young guys early. It obviously builds their confidence. They're a confident group.

"When you get them involved, it's so important. Sometime you have to sit on them a little longer than you want. They're developing, they're growing. It's good to see that."

Kelly pointed to Fuller's speed as being a big part of his impact. Fuller, though, said it hasn't always been that way.

"Coming here, I really wasn't a speed demon," the rookie said. "I give everything for my speed to coach (Paul) Longo and the strength and conditioning staff."

Rees has been an integral part of the development process.

"Tommy helps a lot," Fuller said. "He gives a lot of advice. It's good to have him around.

"It's a different playbook from high school — different words with different meanings. That really confused me. I'm starting to get a handle on that now.

"Learning from the older guys, watching what they're doing, so you can get better with what you're doing (helped). It made it a lot easier to just watch a couple games."

"He's a guy that we knew right away could help us win games," Rees said of Fuller. "He's a got a thing you can't coach, that's speed. He catches the ball really well. It all looks up from here for him.

"Anytime a freshman comes in you expect (them to struggle). He's learned the ins and outs of the offense. Anytime I could help him out I did. He's a bright kid and he understands the game of football. He's done a really nice job for us."

Odds are it will get even better.

Notre Dame wide receiver William Fuller (15) makes a catch in front of Air Force defensive back Justin DeCoud (13) during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at Falcon Stadium in Air Force Academy, Colo. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER