The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, October 15, 1995               TAG: 9510150176
SECTION: SPORTS                   PAGE: C13  EDITION: FINAL 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   80 lines


If William Fuller had his way, he would be dashing about NFL playing fields, tossing aside opposing offensive tackles, banging down quarterbacks, quietly going about being one of the better defensive ends in pro football, working his way through the grief that has come from his father's death last summer.

Instead, he will spend a third consecutive week on the sidelines today, nagged by a hamstring pull that is taking far longer to heal than he thought possible. A ``freaky'' injury, he calls it, in a season in which absolutely nothing seems normal.

``This injury is really hard,'' Fuller said Friday as the Eagles prepared to play the New York Giants. ``I've never had one of these before, and everyone keeps coming by to tell me that it's going to take time and I have to be more patient. It's getting better, just not good enough.''

The soft-spoken Chesapeake native wouldn't seem to be the type who'd normally dedicate a season to anyone; then again Fuller's father was the most important person in his life. You couldn't hold a conversation with the father, made blind by diabetes, that didn't include several references to how proud he was of his son. You couldn't hold a conversation with the son without getting an update on how his father was faring.

Every time the Eagles play a road game this season, television viewers can revisit the Fullers' mutual love and respect.

Fuller's father, William Sr., died in August after a long struggle with diabetes and related complications, shortly after a United Way commercial featuring father and son was filmed in Philadelphia. His funeral was just two days before the spot was to be unveiled at Philadelphia's annual United Way kickoff banquet at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Some members of the Eagles front office wondered whether the charity spot would be pulled.

``I had some reservations about it being shown, because it was so close to his passing,'' Fuller said. ``I also wondered whether I'd be able to get through it or not because everyone knows the kind of close relationship I had with my father. But my wife went with me and helped me get through it.

``And I gave them permission to show it, and to use it this season, because I know that he would have wanted it that way. Especially since it featured an organization for the blind.''

The spot, filmed at Philadelphia's Associated Services for the Blind, has received rave reviews. Terry Vaughn of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania called the spot ``one of the best ever.''

``There's frustration everywhere, but it's the kind of frustration that I have to put at different ends of the spectrum,'' Fuller said. ``I can't bring my feelings for my dad onto the field, and I've been lucky because everyone here knows our relationship and everyone here has been very supportive.

``At the same time, I want to play. Ray Rhodes is one hell of a coach. It's frustrating not being out there to help this team grow.''

Fuller was injured in Week 4 trying to sack Oakland's Jeff Hostetler. He had beaten his man and was zeroing in on Hostetler when the quarterback made a quick move around him. Fuller tried to turn to pursue, his cleats became caught in the baseball infield portion of the Oakland Alameda Coliseum and the hamstring popped.

He tried to play two weeks ago against New Orleans but lasted just one play. Since then, the only way he can help his team is by serving as mentor.

``They've started calling me `Coach,' '' Fuller said. ``I've been tutoring some of the younger players, especially Mike Mamula, on what they can expect in certain situations. I've been working with him off my past experiences, how to use different techniques, how to attack certain offensive linemen, how to respond to the attacks of certain other offensive linemen.

``He's got the physical tools to be great. And the amazing thing is he reminds me of myself when I first came into the league - a guy a little undersized at just 250 pounds, but someone who should be able to put on some weight as his career goes on. The best thing is, he wants to be good.''

Fuller would love nothing better than to lead Mamula by example, do something for himself, his team, his father.

``Maybe against St. Louis in two weeks,'' he said, the exasperation evident in his voice. ``Maybe then.'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo

After losing his father to diabetes in the offseason, William Fuller

suffered a painful hamstring injury three weeks ago vs. Oakland.

by CNB