Alumni Alley runs each Monday throughout the offseason on PhiladelphiaEagles.com and features a former Eagle who writes about his time in Philadelphia and his perspective after his NFL career ended. This week: former defensive end William Fuller, who played for the Eagles from 1994-96 and recorded 35.5 quarterback sacks. Fuller was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons in Philadelphia. He played for 13 seasons in the NFL and now works for Football University, a training experience for elite youth football players.
The NFL is in the midst of free agency right now and it’s a time for the fans to project how the new players will fit into their new situations. As a player, I can tell you that there are a lot of factors that go into selecting a new team. The decision to sign elsewhere is one that impacts the rest of your playing days.
Playing in Philadelphia was a very, very enjoyable experience for me. When it came time to leave Houston and become an NFL free agent, I wanted to find a situation where the fit was right. The finances were important, of course, and the living situation was also something to consider, but more than anything I wanted to find a place where my skill set would be utilized properly. I wanted to go to the right defense for me.
I played in a 3-4 defense, I played in Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense and I played in a 4-3, so when I left Houston, I wanted to go and play in a defense with a four-man front. I wanted to be a defensive end in a 4-3 defense.
When I moved from Houston to the Eagles, the fit was perfect for my style of play. Having Bud Carson here as the defensive coordinator was a strong selling point as well. He was a defensive genius who maximized everyone on the field. I remember that there was a question as to whether a player who had been in the AFC Central, which was primarily a passing division, could go to the mighty NFC East and be effective. I think it worked out well for me and for the Eagles.
Houston made the decision to change its roster after the 1993 season and free agency was available to players in the NFL. It was the perfect timing for me, to work in a free market and shop my talents elsewhere. The Eagles stepped up, and I thought the three seasons I played in Philadelphia were outstanding. I loved Bud – one of the smartest coordinators I ever played for – and our defense made great strides. Bud had no ego. All he wanted to do was create a defense that was unpredictable and that kept offenses guessing, and that’s what he did.
Bud was never stuck on a particular scheme. Here’s a great example. We were preparing to play San Francisco in 1994 and Bud noticed while he was watching film that San Francisco had particular trouble in one game against a team running a 3-4 front. So for that game, and for that game only, we changed our approach and opened the game in a 3-4 defense. It turned out to be a game in which Charlie Garner had his coming-out party (two touchdown runs in a 40-8 Eagles win), but from our defensive standpoint, we had some blitzes out of that 3-4 front and killed them.
By the time San Francisco made adjustments at halftime, we moved back into our 4-3 defense and had a comfortable lead and just piled on the 49ers. It was the perfect example of Bud and his genius approach.
Playing in Philadelphia was unique for me. I had been in the city playing for the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL in 1984-85 and so I knew my way around the city. I didn’t want to leave Houston, I loved Houston, but I had to look at it from a business standpoint and moving to a city that I was familiar with, that I knew my family would enjoy, and one that was closer to my hometown in Virginia was also an important factor.
There is no such thing as guaranteed success moving from one team to another in the NFL. It’s a risk on the team’s part and on a player’s part. It worked out for me, leaving Houston for Philadelphia. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an Eagle. You don’t just pick a new team for the money. You have to be smart as a player and consider a lot of factors in your decision.