NFL, Lamar University star Johnny Fuller joining Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame

Published 12:34 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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“I’ve never had any huge failures, no. I mean, some small ones, but I was always able to overcome them.”

This is Johnny Fuller, and Johnny hasn’t often — if ever — had to wonder what could have been when it comes to things within his control. Although, there may be a few losses to the Dallas Cowboys he’d like to have another crack at.

A native of Beaumont and a 1964 South Park High School graduate, Johnny went on to compete in track and field and with the football team in Lamar Cardinals red. After earning small college All-American Honors, he was picked in the fourth round of the 1968 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers as a wide receiver, and then switched positions to safety after trying it out in an early exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers.

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“Coach told me to get rid of those little shoulder pads; you’re going to be a defensive back,” Johnny said

Five seasons he spent in San Francisco. From punt returns to blocked kicks and the occasional interception — he did it all. One of those interceptions came off the hands of Hall of Famer Joe Namath, who was quoted in the New York Times the next day as he told the reporter, “I felt it was the best pass I’d thrown all day.”

Joe’s best wasn’t quite good enough, though — at least not that day, and not that play. Johnny was there, and the 49ers beat Namath’s Jets by three.

Special honor

For accomplishments like these and a whole lot more, Johnny Fuller is being inducted Saturday into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame. Also joining him is famed sports journalist Charean Williams.

Rockin Sidney Simien and Slim Harpo are being inducted in the Music Hall of Fame.

All are invited to the event, which is scheduled from 2-3 p.m.

Call 409-982-7000 for more information.

Professional football

In a game against the New Orleans Saints, Johnny blocked a field goal that was scooped and scored by his teammate Bruce Taylor, changing the tide of the game.

“They were all down there celebrating and jumping all over Taylor while I was laying on the field with a few cracked ribs. I mean, I was the one who blocked it,” teased Johnny as he recounted the story.

Oh, and those Dallas Cowboys?

Johnny and the 49ers were knocked out of the playoffs by them three years in a row — twice just a game before the Super Bowl.

“That dang Staubach,” said Johnny, with a shake of the head.

Roger Staubach, that is. Hall of Fame quarterback for the Cowboys throughout the entirety of the seventies.

In 1973, Johnny Fuller was sent to New Orleans, tasked with donning the black and gold and holding down the safety position for the same Saints he’d just punished two seasons ago. Those weren’t winning years in New Orleans, but they had their memorable moments behind quarterback Archie Manning.

After three seasons in New Orleans, Johnny hung up his cleats for good and returned to Palo Alto, California, where he still had his house from his years with the Niners.

When asked what he had planned to do after football, Johnny joked, “When I came home I had my bonus, and I went out to the mailbox and got my check every week.”

In reality, he did far more than that in the years leading up to now. Shortly after leaving the NFL he owned a sweeping company in California for six years. Johnny sold that business, moved back to Beaumont and then bought another business.

He spent years as a businessman locally, and then once he’d had enough of that he went back to the football field and coached for the Lumberton Raiders during the 2000s, where he still resides today.

— Written by Clayton Eaves