Griffin Fuller Stays Strong, Honors Brother
By Joseph DeClercq, NAIA Virtual Intern, Biola University, Class of 2012
Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) men's soccer player Griffin Fuller's resolve goes much further than just playing for wins and losses and rather than scoring goals, he is devoted to his family and his team.
On Oct. 4, Fuller's older brother, Robert, passed away in the hospital from complications brought on by a severe fall.
This was devastating blow for Griffin. He had now lost one of his closest friends, supporters and someone he looked up to.
"He came to my games and cheered the loudest for me," Griffin said. "He made it very clear that he loved me. He was one of my heroes, a person I looked up to and wanted to be."
Robert was the older brother to four siblings and a son to Chip and Linda Fuller, his death has shaken the family up.
"It was such a sudden and unexpected death, none of us could do anything about it," Griffin said. "This tragedy has taken its toll on our family, but God is giving us strength."
Togetherness is a common trait among families of athletes. Griffin's sister, Alexandra, played soccer during her time at Point Loma Nazarene and their father, Chip, coached both Robert and Griffin when they played for University High School in Irvine, Calif.
The Fuller family is no different and they know that this is just a misstep and not something they can't recover from.
"We are such a unified family that an event like this really crushed us," griffin said. "But in saying that, it also made us stronger. We as a family picked each other up and kept the faith. God has a plan and reason for everything. My brother's death was for a reason, and I am confident that God will make it clear to my family and I one day."
This tragedy hasn't kept Griffin from maintaining his role on his team. Knowing it is going to be a tough task, Fuller has a new motivation for playing.
"I try my hardest to not let it sadden me when I'm playing," He said. "I try to embrace it to give me something more to play for. I do find myself thinking about it when I'm playing and sometimes it drives me and others [times] it saddens me."
With the option to return home to Irvine (Calif.) after his brother's passing, Fuller wanted to stay in San Diego, Calif. to play in Point Loma Nazarene's game against San Diego Christian College (Calif.) the next day. He was going to play in his brother's honor.
His teammates and coach, Tim Hall, were more than supportive Fuller said. Each person showed their love for Griffin and his brother in their own way. However, they all had the same goal in mind: to help Griffin memorialize his brother.
The team decided it would be fitting to wear black armbands during their next game in honor of Robert. Team captain, junior Austin Fares said that one way the team knew they could support Griffin was by just going out and playing soccer.
"We were able to take our sadness and frustration out with Griff on the soccer field," Fares said. "I am so glad our team was able to be there for Griff and I felt like it made us all grow closer together."
With their armbands on, the team took the field for a moment of silence prior to the game. The story then took a perfect turn. In the 48th minute, Fuller found teammate senior Tyler Hall with a pass in front of the net which Hall was able to put in for the game-winning goal.
"I ran up to Tyler who looked into my eyes and said 'For Robert'" Griffin said. "That would turn out to be the deciding goal of the game and when it was over the team ran to hug me. I was overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry. Although I lost a brother, I still had 17 other brothers right there with me."
The win was important for the Sea Lions, who finished the year 8-8-1, but the way Griffin and the rest of the soccer program rebounded is what really stands out.
"The death of Robert has had a great impact on both my men's and women's soccer teams," Hall said. "I have witnessed a phenomenal sense of community from both teams as they walk this road with Griffin."
The first weeks of October were no longer about soccer at Point Loma Nazarene. During an emotional time, Griffin has stayed grounded in his faith, something he knows is more important than a game.
"My brother's passing has made me weak, and I need Jesus to strengthen me, and I believe he has," he said. "What keeps me going is God's love to me and my family, and also knowing that I will see my brother again."
Point Loma Nazarene University Mission Statement
Point Loma Nazarene University exists to provide higher education in a vital Christian community where minds are engaged and challenged, character is modeled and formed, and service becomes an expression of faith. Being of Wesleyan heritage, we aspire to be a learning community where grace is foundational, truth is pursued, and holiness is a way of life.