Tewksbury’s Fuller Takes Over Memphis Defense
Adam Fuller was the brains behind one of the best defenses in all of college football in 2018, and when you accomplish a feat like that, it typically gets noticed.
So when the University of Memphis, an on-the-rise program that has won at least eight games in each of the last five seasons, was in need of a new defensive coordinator, Fuller was identified as the perfect man for the job.
A week ago, he was given the job. Memphis head coach Mike Norvell announced that Fuller is the new defensive coordinator at Memphis, luring Fuller away from Marshall University, where he had spent the previous six years on the coaching staff, including as the defensive coordinator in 2018.
Fuller, who grew up in Lowell and Tewksbury and graduated from Tewksbury High in 1994, led Marshall to an FBS top-35 ranking in more than 30 defensive categories in 2018. The Thundering Herd were ninth in rushing defense, eighth in total sacks and 16th in takeaways. Marshall was also one of just three programs in the nation to not allow a 100-yard rusher.
“We had a really good year and every year the cycle in the coaching profession kind of rolls over, and my name got to Mike Norvell just because of our accomplishments,” said Fuller. “He got in contact with some of the people I’ve worked with and he reached out to me the day after our bowl game when we beat South Florida (on Dec. 20) and we just kind of connected.
“It doesn’t happen in this profession very often, working with people that you haven’t worked with in the past. But my last two jobs, both Doc Holliday (head coach at Marshall) and Mike, have taken chances on me, so I’m grateful for that.”
Fuller still has plenty of family in Tewksbury and the surrounding area. Each summer he visits with his wife, Hope, and two sons, Jack (12) and Aidan (9). He also said he maintains a close friendship with Tewksbury High football head coach Brian Aylward. They talk before the football preseason and exchange texts during the season.
Fuller said the decision to take the job at Memphis wasn’t easy because it’s always hard to uproot your family after you’ve settled into a community. But Memphis’ past success and future potential was a clinching factor.
“I have a lot of respect for Marshall and Doc, but I just thought the opportunity with where Memphis is going and what it has done, and how I think I could help defensively and the players they have here, I just thought it was a good next step,” said Fuller. “It’s a job that has a lot of upside to it and I’m just looking to be a part of it.”
Memphis finished 8-6 this season. The Tigers lost to then-unbeaten Central Florida in the American Athletic Conference championship game, before falling to Wake Forest, 37-34, in the Birmingham Bowl.
“We are so very excited about the addition of Adam Fuller to the Memphis Tigers football family,” said Norvell in a release posted on the university’s athletic website. “Adam is one of the top defensive minds in college football and has been part of developing some of college football’s top defensive units throughout his career. Coach Fuller will bring an aggressive and detailed approach to our Memphis defense. It will put our student-athletes in positions to showcase all their skills and talents, while also being developed at the highest level.”
The road from Tewksbury
After a stellar playing career at Tewksbury, Fuller went on to become a linebacker and four-year letterwinner at Sacred Heart University. He served as team captain in 1997.
Prior to Marshall, Fuller was the defensive coordinator at Chattanooga (2009-12). He also had coaching stints at WPI (his first job in 1998), Wagner, Richmond and Assumption (head coach in 2008).
Along the way, there’s been a lot of travel, a lot of moving and a lot of hours put in. But Fuller remains extremely happy with his career choice.
“You have a chance to impact kids’ lives daily,” Fuller said. “All of us in life just want to improve and I get to do what I love to do and work at it. There’s moments, like every job, that you wish weren’t happening at the wrong time. But you get to wake up every day energized, trying to get better at what you do and get caught up in the process of improvement, and that’s why I’m in this.
“Pretty much, I grew up in that Lowell/Tewksbury area. But my kids -- one was born in Richmond, Va., one was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., they’ve lived in Massachusetts, West Virginia and now Memphis. That’s pretty special for them. You need a great wife and my wife is from Staten Island, so we’ve been all over the place. I wouldn’t trade anything.”
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone