Former Clemson football running back CJ Fuller has died, Clemson confirmed in a statement Wednesday night.
Fuller was 22 years old.
“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with C.J.’s family,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “I’ve known C.J. a long time and watched him grow up through the Easley rec leagues all the way through Easley High School. I’m proud of what he accomplished as a Clemson Tiger, most of all, his accomplishment of being a Clemson graduate. Our deepest condolences and the thoughts of our program are with his family this evening. May he rest in peace.”
It was not immediately known how Fuller died
It was not immediately known how Fuller died. The Pickens County coroner said autopsy results won’t be available for six to eight weeks.
Fuller was a member of Clemson’s 2016 national title team and was the Tigers’ starting running back at the start of the 2017 season. He finished last year with 217 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while playing in all 14 games, with three starts.
Reaction to his death poured in Wednesday night via social media.
Former teammate Shaq Lawson, now with the Buffalo Bills, said via Instagram: “My brother I am hurting right now. Somebody wake me up from this nightmare. My brother was supposed to come see me tomorrow. I love you bruh until we meet again.”
Gamecock running back great Marcus Lattimore added on Twitter: “We are mortal. I am devastated. Praying hard right now for CJ Fuller’s family. Great human.”
Fuller was going to transfer to another school for his final season of eligibility before he and former Clemson player Jadar Johnson were then accused of robbing a former teammate in April.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott helped recruit Fuller to Clemson from Easley High and was his position coach from 2014 through 2017.
After the arrest
After the arrest, Elliott in April said: “In dealing with young people and the challenges that they have every single day, it caught me by surprise, but at the same time, they’ve got so many distractions from people pulling on them and like I tell them, it’s easier than you think to make a bad decision. It’s a lot easier and there’s a lot of examples of it every single day. … The one thing I did tell him, I said, ‘Look, man. I love you regardless. I know there will be sometimes you do some things where I don’t like you, but I’m always going to love you and this situation is not going to determine that.”
Fuller appeared in 43 games for Clemson in the 2015-17 seasons. He had 147 career carries for 599 yards with four rushing touchdowns to go with 18 receptions for 155 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
He starred at Easley High School, where he helped lead the program to three straight playoff berths for the first time in school history. He set the Easley rushing record with 2,090 yards as a junior.
Former Clemson University running back C.J. Fuller was doing physical therapy for a knee injury and began to experience chest pains in the moments before his death Wednesday, his aunt, Zola Fuller Beeks, said Thursday in an interview with the Independent Mail and The Greenville News.
“He had been having some chest pains before that day, but they got worse fast,” she said she was told by her siblings at the hospital with Fuller. “He was conscious at one point, but when he got to the hospital, his speech was slurred. Before we knew it, he was gone.
“We think it had something to do with a blood clot, but you just don’t expect someone his age to be gone so fast.”
Fuller, 22, had been taken from a family member’s house in Pickens County to Greenville Memorial Hospital before he died, according to Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley.
Kelley said Wednesday that Fuller was pronounced dead at the hospital. She said she is still investigating what happened and doesn’t expect to release further information about his death until she has completed an autopsy.
Kelley said an investigation into Fuller’s death could take six to eight weeks to complete.
Fuller played at Clemson from 2014 to 2017, going through a redshirt year when he didn’t appear in games in 2014 before accumulating 599 yards rushing on 147 carries with five touchdowns during the next three seasons.
He also had 290 yards on 17 career kickoff returns, including a 20-yard kickoff return in the 2016 national championship game that jump-started the Tigers’ game-winning drive against Alabama.
“His dream was Clemson,” Beeks said Thursday. “He made us champions. From the time he was 5 until he was 22, he loved football. It was a part of him. And to us, he will always be a champion.”
Fuller announced intentions to transfer to another school before spring practice.
“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with C.J.’s family,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement Wednesday night. “I’ve known C.J. a long time and watched him grow up through the Easley rec leagues all the way through Easley High School. I’m proud of what he accomplished as a Clemson Tiger, most of all, his accomplishment of being a Clemson graduate. Our deepest condolences and the thoughts of our program are with his family… May he rest in peace.”
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Before coming to Clemson, Fuller attended Easley High School, where he helped lead the program to three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in school history.
In March, Fuller was arrested along with former Clemson teammate Jadar Johnson and former high school teammate Quaven Ferguson and charged with armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The case has not gone to trial.
Beeks said she doesn’t want Fuller to be remembered as someone charged with a crime who hadn’t had his day in court to defend himself against the accusations.
Family photos show Fuller graduated from Clemson in August with a degree in sociology.
“C.J. had a lot of good to give the world,” Beeks said. “Now, he won’t have the chance.”
Scott Keepfer and Bob Castello of The Greenville News contributed to this report