After playing four games in a 7-on-7 tournament at Florida High Friday morning, the East Gadsden (Havana, Fla.) Jaguars piled on their yellow school bus for the return trip to Havana.
Or so the team thought.
“I didn’t know what we were going to do,” junior defensive end Marco Rollins said Saturday.
The Jaguars made a detour while in Tallahassee to the Orange Avenue Apartments, where their coach, former Florida State star and 10-year NFL veteran Corey Fuller, was raised.
Fuller, as most know, wears his heart on his sleeve.
Even when his shirt is soaking wet from a driving thunderstorm.
“The kids see the glory but they really don’t know the story,” Fuller said Saturday.
Some of the Jaguars do now.
Fuller gave his players an emotional 48-second, rain-soaked version of his life that was videotaped by a volunteer assistant coach.
Shared on social media, the video had nearly 30,000 views in less than 12 hours.
Frustrated by a lack of effort at times from his team, a demonstrative Fuller, 45, encouraged players to work hard and not make excuses.
The group stood in front of the apartment where Fuller was raised. A driving rain pelted Fuller and players; thunder boomed from beyond.
The woman who now resides in apartment No. 4 – Fuller’s football jersey number by design – stood on the doorstep, under cover, and also listened to Fuller’s message.
Fuller, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, was in full volume as he shouted it, soaking wet, with his right arm pumping out exclamation marks:
Fuller: “I lived in there 21 years. Twenty-one years I stayed in these projects. It’s where I learned how to play football at. You all keep walking around like you’ve got something. I keep giving you all my soul every day and you all won’t listen. Nobody is not going to give us nothing. We’ve got to take what we want. You want to go to college? You want to get out of your situation? Work hard. That is why we came through here. My master bedroom is bigger than this whole house. I come from nothing. I don’t want to hear no more complaining from none of you all. All we want to do is work. Do you understand me?
Players: Yes sir.”
Fuller: “Get on the bus.”
When the bus pulled up in front of the apartments around 12:15 p.m., many of the players started to realize that it was Fuller’s childhood home. The head coach has shared his story before, but had never made it a field trip.
“Coach started telling us this is where he grew up and, from him, we knew what type of neighborhood that is,” Rollins said.
“We knew how he grew up. It made an impact. No matter what the circumstances are, you can still make it out and do big things. It inspired us to work harder.”
It was a light rain initially as Fuller spoke to his team. After three or four minutes, it began to rain harder.
It was around that time when volunteer assistant coach Courtney Wester pulled out his cell phone and videotaped the last rousing 40-plus seconds in the thunderstorm.
“They (players) were in shock,” Wester said.
“Everyone really started talking about it when they got back to school. Everyone must have watched the video 20-30 times or more. Their reaction was like, ‘We have to do this. We can make it.’
“They have heard about Corey. They know he played in the NFL, they know he played at Florida State. But for them to actually be in the projects where he grew up, to see where he came from and where he lives now, they were, ‘Wow, we can do this.’”
Fuller approaches each day with an unbridled zest for life and the dogged determination to help youth.
“If I save one person, I have done my job,” Fuller said. “In this case I want to save more because it’s my football team. I know what I do for my football team.”