By Mark Jezek
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
After an incredible senior year at Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas, 18-year-old Clay Fuller had a big decision to make. He could accept an offer to play football for the University of Houston, honor his letter of intent to play baseball at Baylor, or join Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Fuller chose to go pro. Shortly after his decision, then University of Houston head football Coach Art Briles told Fuller that if he ever chose to put away the baseball glove, to give him a call.
After six years in the Angels organization and working his way up to the AA level, Fuller decided it was time for a change.
“It was an accumulation of things that led to it,” Fuller said. “The uncertainty of the major leagues, the traveling, the lifestyle, all led to the decision.”
Fuller finished his career batting .249 with eight homers, 34 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases.
“I have always looked up to Art Briles,” said Fuller. “He told me when I was drafted that if baseball didn’t work out to give him a call and let him know. I did that five and a half years later and for someone to keep their word after that long shows what kind of caliber man he is. It was an easy decision for me. I had committed here to play baseball and when Briles came here, Baylor was the only school I would ever want to go to.”
Fuller ended up joining the Baylor football team in 2011 as a 24-year-old freshman walk on and began to make an immediate impact on and off the field.
“He is just a very mature kid,” said Baylor receivers coach Kendal Briles. “He has been in the real world and kind of understands what it takes to be successful. To have a guy who comes in who has already been successful professionally, he knows how to work and he has great character. Guys see that and understand that he has done it outside of college and know that he has come back to do it here. These guys really respect him.”
Fuller had great success in his first year back as a student. He was named to both the Dean’s List and the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, a feat which he has since repeated four times.
“I think coming back to school you come back with a new perspective,” Fuller said. “You have a little bit more life experience and you know what you want to get your degree in. For me that is real estate. You come back older so you look at it different and you approach it in a different way.”
Since joining the team, Fuller has emerged as a role model for other receivers both on and off the field.
“He has had experience playing at a professional level so guys look up to him,” junior receiver Levi Norwood said. “Even guys who are older class wise still look up to him just because he has had that experience even though it is a different sport he knows what it is like.”
Fuller has also made an impact outside of the receiving corp.
“Clay is a great guy,” added starting quarterback Bryce Petty. “He is just consistent. He is going to come out and work every day and not get a prima donna attitude. He goes out there and works hard and if he gets the ball great, if he doesn’t get the ball great. That is why I love him. He has definitely got a lot more talent than people sometimes realize, and we are certainly lucky to have him.”
Fuller appeared in all 13 games in 2011 primarily on special teams where he accumulated seven tackles and recovered a critical fumble in the final seconds of Baylor’s upset win over No. 5 Oklahoma.
So far this season Fuller has recorded two receptions for 61 yards, and will have a great opportunity to build on those numbers playing in Briles’ high-powered offense.“I feel like I have got a second chance on a lot of things that I wanted to do in high school,” Fuller said. “I went a different avenue and chose a different career. Now coming back I get that second chance and I don’t want to let it slip by.”