By Jeb Smartt and Stephanie Lyons
With all of the firepower of Baylor football, it’s no surprise a valuable weapon has slipped through the cracks. Junior wide receiver Clay Fuller may be sensationalized. There’s no doubt in his teammates minds, Fuller is one of the leaders of this team.
His name may not stand out as much as junior quarterback Bryce Petty, junior running back Lache Seastrunk or senior safety Ahmad Dixon on the big plays.
Yet the journey of a 26-year-old former minor league baseball player who came back to school to play football is why Fuller is an inspirational figure among the football team.
Fuller originally signed with Baylor to play baseball in November of 2005 but was selected in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Angels.
“When I ended up getting drafted, it was perfect,” Fuller said. “It was exactly what I wanted to do. Then you get into it, and it’s not all glamorous or a lifestyle that I wanted to pursue.”
Fuller said he enjoyed five and a half years with the Angels and traveled all over the country playing the game, but said he saw many unhealthy relationships.
He decided that the uncertain lifestyle of minor league baseball didn’t match up with his dreams to start a family. In 2011 Fuller decided it was time for a change.
“I was in Frisco playing the Rough Riders, and I’d been talking to my parents, so I called my high school football coach and told him what I was thinking. He asked me if I wanted to contact schools and I said no. I wanted to talk to Baylor,” he said. “[Head football coach Art] Briles is there and I was already committed to play baseball there. So my coach said he would call him.”
Five minutes later at batting practice, Fuller received a phone call. His coach’s voice came through the phone, “Coach Briles is waiting on you. Let’s go.”
Three days before he was set to play football, Fuller was playing baseball.
“I had my first baseman throwing me pass routes that night on the baseball field because I didn’t know if I could still catch anymore,” Fuller said.
Fuller arrived on campus ready to go in the fall of 2011.
No. 23 has played a limited role on the team for the past two seasons, even recovering the fumble in the final seconds to clinch one of the most talked-about games in Baylor history against Oklahoma in 2011.
With his increased role this season, Fuller has nine catches for 171 yards and a touchdown.
But his contribution to the team and Baylor extends much farther than the field.
The two-time All Big-12 Honor Roll member and Dean’s list honoree has mentored many of his teammates.
“Clay really helps give aspiring professional athletes good advice on how to achieve their goals,” senior linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “It’s nice to have someone with experience on our team.”
What’s even more important to Fuller than the game, is his future.
“Clay is very focused on the reason he’s here,” Petty said. “He’s always diligent about getting his work done and working hard.”
Along with starting a family, Fuller is already planning a bright future after Baylor.
“I want to develop neighborhoods,” Fuller said. “After college, I want to work for a developer and eventually go into business with my father and brothers.”
Fuller’s father and two brothers, who were all football and baseball athletes at Texas Tech, are involved in construction.
Kenny Fuller, Clay Fuller’s dad, most recently was involved in building the new H-E-B on Valley Mills Drive in Waco.
Fuller volunteers with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and speaks to kids at the McLennan County Juvenile Detention Center.
“Me choosing Baylor was a huge faith step,” Fuller said. “How could God give me the chance to go play professional baseball and it not work out? Because it was His plan and not mine. Coming to Baylor was a huge step, and it’s been great.”