2005 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
William H. Fuller ’86
A few words tell quite a story: Tar Heel football defensive most valuable player, All-America, first-team All-ACC, one of the National Football League’s 20 all-time sack leaders and four-time Pro Bowl honoree during a 15-year professional football career.
But that’s just the early days William Fuller’s story. Rather than coasting on the success he had flinging quarterbacks to the turf, William has parlayed that success into a real-estate development career and philanthropic ventures that would be a life’s work in their own right.
“People always talk about what happens when the cheering stops,” after a professional athlete retires, William says. “For me, the cheering never stopped. I just see so many opportunities out there. I’m excited about business. I want to make money, but that’s not all I’m interested in, because I know where I came from, have never forgotten where I came from.”
In fact, William has returned to the Tidewater region of Virginia where he was born. There, his company, Fulco Development, is finishing construction on a shopping center in his family’s old neighborhood. That shopping center will bring the first grocery store to a historically black community in Norfolk where folks have had no good place to shop.
He’s also a key force in Norfolk’s downtown revitalization. He pulled Black Entertainment Television founder and Charlotte Bobcats owner Robert L. Johnson into a proposed hotel project he had been negotiating with city leaders. It’s now projected to inject $100 million and bring more than 250 hotel rooms and 50 condominiums to the downtown.
“He’s a worker,” says former Carolina football locker mate Melvin L. Williams Jr. ’85 “He’s been my inspiration, mentor, friend, buddy. He is probably the most giving person I know.”
Years ago, William endowed a football scholarship here at Carolina, which he calls “an investment that continues to pay dividends.” He is pleased to have been able to give that back to the University after attending on scholarship himself. He also serves on the board of the Education Foundation.
And William has raised millions of dollars for charity, especially the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, a cause that became a passion as he watched his father suffer with the disease. Though William hasn’t lived in Houston for years, he returns there every year to host the organization’s William Fuller Celebrity Golf Tournament, now in its 15th year. He serves on the foundation’s international board.
He hosts a second golf tournament in the Tidewater area to benefit Chesapeake Care, an organization that gives medical care to those who can’t afford it.
“It’s wonderful to see a student athlete who has been able to excel in pro sports and then utilize his contacts and his passion to go back and help his community, to see the resources he has been able to acquire to do that,” says former classmate Joy Edith Paige ’85. “He’s an example to other athletes about what one individual can do to make an impact on the community and its quality of life.”