On Oct. 3, 2018, tragedy struck when former Clemson University and Easley High football player C.J. Fuller died at 22 of a blood clot connected to a knee injury. Next weekend, his parents, Charlie and Christy Fuller, will take the first step in honoring his legacy.
The Fullers started the C.J. Fuller Foundation to fulfill his goal to give back to the Pickens County (S.C.) community through community service and football.
“He lived the dream coming out of Easley to playing for a national championship with Clemson,” Christy Fuller said. “We thought about what we could do to have his legacy live on and started the C.J. Fuller Foundation.”
The foundation has three main components: C.J. Fuller Memorial Scholarship, Project 27 and a football camp.
The scholarship will begin with the class of 2020 and will be awarded to one student-athlete at each of the four Pickens County high schools: Easley, Daniel, Liberty and Pickens. Qualifications are still being discussed.
Project 27 — a tribute to Fuller’s jersey number at Clemson — is a community service-based project for middle school students. The aim is to work with different organizations and centers in the fall to accumulate 27 hours of community service leading up to C.J. Fuller’s birthday, Nov. 22.
“We would love to work with the Dream Center because the Easley soup kitchen is there,” Christy Fuller said. “We’re probably going to start out targeting the eighth-grade (students).”
The foundation’s first event, the football camp, will take place March 29-30 at Gettys Middle School (Friday) and J.B. Red Owens Recreation Center (Saturday). Friday will be for high school students and Saturday will be for students in grades 1 through 8.
“Friday Night Lights” will be held from from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the Saturday camp will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The inspiration came shortly after C.J. Fuller’s death and with the assistance of one of his close friends, former Daniel High and Clemson standout and current Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson.
Fuller died on a Wednesday, one day before he was supposed to fly to Buffalo to watch Lawson play against the Tennessee Titans. Lawson took a leave of absence from the team to attend the funeral that Saturday; the idea of the football camp was born there.
“We just kind of looked at him and said, ‘Shaq, we need to do a football camp,” Christy Fuller said. “He said, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Fuller, whatever you need from me, I’ll be there.’ ”
Lawson and several other NFL players will coach the athletes through the camp, including Ryan Shazier (Steelers) and former Clemson players Deon Cain (Colts) and D.J. Reader (Texans). Also participating will be graduating Clemson players Austin Bryant, Adam Choice and Kendall Joseph and former Clemson great C.J. Spiller.
Most of the players will be on site Saturday; the Fullers say there also will be surprise special guest instructors.
The cost of the camp is $75 for the regular package and $100 for VIP. Camp information and an application can be found on the foundation website, cjfullerfoundation.org.
“He was such an impact,” Christy Fuller said. “Ultimately we would love to see some type of community center built in the Pickens County area.”