*The Virginia Tech product successfully pitched head coach Jay Gruden on Torrian Gray, and is looking forward to reuniting with former position coach on the field. *
Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller couldn't exactly put into words the way he felt when Torrian Gray was hired as the team's new defensive backs coach.
Gray had been Fuller's position coach at Virginia Tech during the cornerback's three seasons (he began his tenure there in 2006) with the Hokies and was fundamental in helping him excel into an NFL-ready prospect. To reunite in Washington was a dream come true, and just a little part of Fuller's plan.
The two chatted on the phone earlier this winter and Gray, who spent last season coaching at the University of Florida, had briefly mentioned his desire to join the NFL ranks.
"Once he told me that, I called Kyshoen [Jarrett] and we were just like, 'We gotta see if we can make this happen.'"
Jarrett, another Virginia Tech product that was waived by the Redskins last August due to a nerve injury, was drafted a year before Fuller, and the two had grown tremendously under Gray's leadership. Fuller decided he would pitch his position coach to head coach Jay Gruden.
"[I said] I thought he was the best defensive back coach in America," Fuller said. "I just left it at that.
"We really just put the name on his desk," he added. "They talked to him I guess. They met with him, they liked what they saw in him, he probably liked it here…But at this stage, if they didn't think he was ready or capable of the job, they wouldn't hire him."
After a rookie season that saw its ups and downs, Fuller is glad to have a familiar leader in his room. With a full offseason under his belt – he spent a portion of it in Phoenix working and continuing to rehab his knee – Fuller is finally ready to enjoy an entire offseason program.
"It felt good," he said of the time off. "Really just building that camaraderie with guys, get out there working hard. That's probably the biggest part is just getting around with all the fellas."
Fuller missed his junior season due to microfracture surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Still, the Redskins saw his potential and drafted him in the third round of last year's draft.
Check out images of cornerback Kendall Fuller during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
After missing most of OTAs and minicamp, Fuller participated in training camp and played a full regular season, finishing with 42 combined tackles and two passes defensed. While he was healthy enough to play, the knee was never fully healed – sometimes microfracture surgery can take two years to fully recover, he said – but each day it's felt better.
"Last year I think I was just excited to get to the league and get healthy," Fuller said. "I think this year I will focus on the little stuff that is going to make my knee feel better. Not rushing it and letting it get ready. Last year, the one little thing that I was focusing on was to get healthy and be ready to play football. Now I know what to expect and stuff like that and being able to go about it the right way."
If he manages to progress and stay healthy, Fuller is excited about the opportunities to strengthen some of the weaknesses he exhibited last year. Having Gray, who has already helped him develop, will be extremely helpful.
"He's going to push all of us to be great, he's going to demand a lot out of us. I can probably go on and on. Just a lot of little stuff, technique, fundamentals, study habits," Fuller said. "It's his work ethic. He's the first one in and the last one out."
Fuller is also looking forward to playing under new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who he said will let you "feel his presence." It's likely Fuller will assume the starting nickel role, where he played the majority of snaps last year, in the offseason, looking to build on his rookie campaign.
"With having Breeland and Norman out there, I think that is something they are going to ask me to do," Fuller said. "At the end of the day that is something that I cannot control. Wherever they put me at, it's just about going out there and making some plays."