USC Gamecocks Football

Bobby Fuller came to USC with Sparky Woods, earned starting QB job

Bobby Fuller started the 1990 and 1991 seasons at South Carolina. Despite ranking 10th on the career passing chart, ninth in career completions, fourth in career completion percentage and seventh and 10th in single-season yardage, he’s often a forgotten man. Today he lives in Chapin and operates a State Farm insurance branch in North Augusta.

Q: You played under Sparky Woods at Appalachian State and then came with him to South Carolina. How did you, a Miami native, wind up at Appalachian?

A: “They recruited heavily in Florida. There were probably 20 Florida guys at App with me. I had some options, I could have gone to Boston College or Rice. But I visited App and fell in love with it instantly.”

Q: You had a successful career at App and became the starter as a freshman. Why did you leave?

A: “We lost to Marshall in the 1987 (Division I-AA) semifinals, and we were young in 1988. In 1989, I knew we were going to win the national championship, no doubt in my mind. But coach Woods got hired at USC in February, and the new coach (Jerry Moore) wanted to run a lot of option. I stayed through spring practice and then said, ‘Nah, I’m out of here.’ ”

Q: Todd Ellis was playing his senior year in 1989, when you had to sit out. Did that help your decision?

A: “A little. They had Rob DeBoer and Mike Dingle and Eddie Miller, and I thought, ‘Wow, yeah, I should be set there.’ And we had played at Carolina the two years before. The first time I walked into Williams-Brice, it was just like when I got to Appalachian – I fell in love with that place instantly that day.”

Q: Did Sparky have any worries about handing you the offense?

A: “It was the same offense we ran at App. That gave me an advantage over everybody. The learning curve was nothing. It was just getting up to speed.”

Q: 1990 was a good season (6-5) but athletics director King Dixon declined a bowl bid. How did you handle that?

A: “I was crushed. That was always my No. 1 goal of being there -- to be the first QB to win a bowl game for USC. We would have won seven if we didn’t lose to The dang Citadel. We scored every time we had the ball … we couldn’t stop them. That just killed our season. We win that game, we’re 8-3 at the worst. That game just destroyed the defense mentally. King was a great guy, but it was such a mess with the steroid stuff (from the Joe Morrison era). They were trying to clean up the image.”

Q: 1991 was 3-6-2. What happened?

A: “It started in the first game. We were up 14 against Duke, and they scored 14 in the final, what, minute to tie us? (1:09). If anything could go bad that year, it did. It was the ‘Chicken Curse’ until the end. I left every game shaking my head, going, ‘Our team is not this bad.’ ”

Q: Did you give pro ball a try?

A: “I thought I was going to be drafted. Didn’t. So I hung around a little, I could have played arena ball the next two years, but I didn’t want to for $500 a game and beat up my body any more. I was going to Barcelona to the World Football League, but the league folded. Once that happened, I kept training and decided to give it another year. They were filming ‘The Program’ in Columbia at the time and I got to be in it -- I was the Michigan quarterback. I had a small speaking part, just barking signals, but because of that I had to join the actor’s guild. So that was pretty cool. After that, I moved back to Miami.”

Q: Did you immediately go into insurance?

A: “No, I went into my dad’s family business. We own gas stations and car washes all over South Florida. So I joined my brother and father in Miami and I did that for 15 years. My old roommate at Carolina, Jay Killen, had always been telling me I should get into insurance but I didn’t think it’d be a good fit. Then I came up to a tailgate one year, and Jay told me that again, and I said I was looking to get up here, but I’d been my own boss for 15 years and didn’t know if I’d like working for anyone. But I started working for an agent in Chapin and liked it, so I came back in 2008.”

Q: Your name is still all over the record book. Does it bother you more people don’t remember how well you played?

A: “I was the transition guy (between Ellis and Steve Taneyhill). But that’s fine. Heck, if (Steve) Spurrier didn’t come in there, I was No. 5 on the chart. I would have loved to play for that guy. When I played, I’d have over 200 yards at the half and then we sat on the ball. I’d have double the numbers under Spurrier.”