Bluefield – Caleb Fuller’s half court buzzer beaters against Greenbrier East during his junior basketball season are more of what Bluefield fans are hoping to see this year on the gridiron – on time and accurate from long distance.
For the third time in as many years the Beavers will be start a different quarterback with Fuller earning that honor heading into the 2022 season.
While new to the starting position, Fuller saw snaps at QB last season where he threw the ball 13 times, completing nine of those passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. He’ll also have a good support system in place to lean upon as he fill outs the position.
His offensive coordinator Fritz Simon has coached the offense and changed it from year-to-year for the better part of 20 years, guiding various different types of quarterbacks along the way. He also has his older brother Cody to call upon.
“It’s been good and fun,” Fuller said of the early weeks of camp. “Coach Fritz has been working with me. I’ve been here for four years. I’ve just been behind Ryker (Brown) and Carson (Deeb). Cody was here in 2016 and his team went 4-6, then the next year after he graduated they went 14-0 and won the state championship. They were young his senior year and he threw it good. His receiving core was kind of similar to mine this year.”
Fuller is no stranger to the spotlight or winning.
A star on he hardwood, he earned a first-team all-state selection in basketball after helping the Beavers reach the Class AA state championship game in March. Many of the traits that have made him successful in the gym have translated to the turf and it’s not lost on his head coach.
“He has the character of a quarterback,” Bluefield head coach Fred Simon said. “He’s calm, confident and willing to work. He’s a good leader by example. He’s going to be here every day and give everything he’s got and that’s what I appreciate about him. He’s a cool-headed kid and one that can calm them down in the huddle so I think we’ve got a good thing going. But he’s a winner. He’s got confidence because he wants to win.”
Fuller plans on harnessing those traits to settle into the position the same way he did in basketball. After emerging as a key bench player as a freshman for a title-contending basketball team in 2020, he became one of the program’s cornerstones, helping it transition and eventually bounce back ahead of schedule after several starters graduated.
He often had to learn on the fly, but believes the lessons will translate.
“I think it will help,” Fuller said. “Playing in those big games and facing that pressure, that’s something you gain over time with experience. Obviously the first couple of times I played in those environments it was a shock but I’ve played in a few big games and I’m ready for it.”
Stylistically, Fuller envisions himself as more of a pocket passer capable of orchestrating the offense but also believes he can pick up some yards with his legs if needed. But above all he’ll trust the system his coaches have put in place which has resulted in 13 state championship game appearances for the Beavers under Simon since 1995.
“I think it will be all in between (the numbers),” Fuller said. “We have Amir (Hairston) running it and I can throw it deep if we need to and we’ve got good receivers if we throw it short. I have a good relationship with my line and receivers. I think we’re all on the same page and I’m really good friends with all of them. I think we’re bonded and even though we lost a lot of talent from last year we can bounce back.”
While the position comes with high expectations and pressure, Fuller has turned to tuning that out and focusing on the short term goal – be successful every week. It’s a part of the winning mentality and character Simon’s noticed in the senior and why he feels confident in turning the keys over to him.
“You just have to take it one week at a time,” Fuller said. “You can’t get caught up in all the hype. You just have to make it through the season and hopefully make the playoffs and take it one week at a time there too. If you do that you don’t get caught up in the pressure. I think all of this has been comfortable for me because of my coaches and teammates. I’m really just lucky to have this opportunity to play.”