O’HARA: Fuller not caught up in heroics of Sunday’s win

Posted Oct 21, 2014

Corey Fuller had his feet firmly planted on the ground long before he landed in the end zone with a game-winning catch that has made him one of the Lions’ heroes of the week.

Corey Fuller had his feet firmly planted on the ground long before he landed in the end zone with a game-winning catch that has made him one of the Lions’ heroes of the week.

A victory dance could have been in order for Fuller after his five-yard catch with 1:48 left in the game gave the Lions the winning margin in Sunday’s 24-23 victory over the Saints.

Fuller didn’t dance after the catch, though. He sprawled on the turf in the end zone and raised both hands in the air as his teammates mobbed him.

There was still work to be done by the defense, and it did just that, sealing the victory with a pass rush that did not allow Drew Brees to drive the Saints into range to try a winning field goal.

Fuller spent a typical quiet Sunday night at home after the game. Fuller was out of the spotlight, which is the way he likes it.

Even on Monday, he was not caught up in the heroics of Sunday’s game.

“I don’t think I’m in the limelight,” Fuller said Monday afternoon as the Lions prepared to depart for London to get ready for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. “I’m being honest with you. I don’t feel like that. You might not like the answer, but I’m just ready to go to London and get ready for the Falcons.”

Not even a victory dinner?

“I just went home and went to sleep,” Fuller said.

Corey FullerWR Corey Fuller (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Before that, Corey talked on the phone with his brother, Kyle, a rookie cornerback with the Chicago Bears, whose team was soundly beaten at home Sunday by the Dolphins.  Kyle didn’t have much information about his brother’s game, except to know that Corey had caught a touchdown pass.

“We didn’t talk about the game,” Corey said. “He told me how he thought he broke his hand. He did say he heard about it (the winning catch). He was a little mad nobody told him it was a game-winning catch.”

Corey Fuller’s status has risen this year from being on the practice squad in his rookie year to a receiver who has cut out a role for himself in the offense with his speed and the upside head coach Jim Caldwell sees in him.

He has gotten more playing time because of an ankle injury sustained by Calvin Johnson that kept him out of the last two games.

By no means is Fuller close to being Matthew Stafford’s first option. That role belongs to Johnson when he’s healthy, and it’s been assumed by Golden Tate in Johnson’s absence.

The Lions liked the potential and athleticism Fuller showed at Virginia Tech, even with limited production. At 6-2, 200 pounds and a time of 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash, they drafted him in the sixth round last year as a project to develop.

After spending his rookie season running the opponent’s plays in practice to get the defense ready for games, Fuller blossomed this year in the offseason workouts and continued to impress the coaches in training camp and the exhibition season.

He is still a work in progress. For the season, he has nine catches for 135 yards, with eight catches in the last three games with an increased workload. Before that, he had a 52-yard catch in the Lions’ victory over the Packers.

In his weekly press conference Monday, Caldwell spoke highly of the progress Fuller has made, and his size, speed and smarts.

Those comments meant a lot to Fuller.

“Especially coming from a guy like coach Caldwell,” he said. “I admire him so much -- just his demeanor about everything. He talks to everybody. He cares about everybody. He’s always smiling. No matter what he’s saying, he has a smile.”

Fuller did leave Sunday’s game with a souvenir. He kept the ball he caught for the winning touchdown and said he planned to send it home to his mother.

Even then, Corey deferred to his brother Kyle for top billing in the family’s souvenirs. He said he hopes there’s room for his ball next to the three balls Kyle kept for his three interceptions.