Anderson Independent Mail
Published 7:25 PM EDT Oct 4, 2018
Former Clemson University running back C.J. Fuller was doing physical therapy for a knee injury and began to experience chest pains in the moments before his death Wednesday, his aunt, Zola Fuller Beeks, said Thursday in an interview with the Independent Mail and The Greenville News.
"He had been having some chest pains before that day, but they got worse fast," she said she was told by her siblings at the hospital with Fuller. "He was conscious at one point, but when he got to the hospital, his speech was slurred. Before we knew it, he was gone.
"We think it had something to do with a blood clot, but you just don't expect someone his age to be gone so fast."
Fuller, 22, had been taken from a family member's house in Pickens County to Greenville Memorial Hospital before he died, according to Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley.
Kelley said Wednesday that Fuller was pronounced dead at the hospital. She said she is still investigating what happened and doesn't expect to release further information about his death until she has completed an autopsy.
Kelley said an investigation into Fuller's death could take six to eight weeks to complete.
Fuller played at Clemson from 2014 to 2017, going through a redshirt year when he didn't appear in games in 2014 before accumulating 599 yards rushing on 147 carries with five touchdowns during the next three seasons.
He also had 290 yards on 17 career kickoff returns, including a 20-yard kickoff return in the 2016 national championship game that jump-started the Tigers' game-winning drive against Alabama.
"His dream was Clemson," Beeks said Thursday. "He made us champions. From the time he was 5 until he was 22, he loved football. It was a part of him. And to us, he will always be a champion."
Fuller announced intentions to transfer to another school before spring practice.
“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with C.J.’s family,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement Wednesday night. “I’ve known C.J. a long time and watched him grow up through the Easley rec leagues all the way through Easley High School. I’m proud of what he accomplished as a Clemson Tiger, most of all, his accomplishment of being a Clemson graduate. Our deepest condolences and the thoughts of our program are with his family... May he rest in peace."
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Before coming to Clemson, Fuller attended Easley High School, where he helped lead the program to three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in school history.
In March, Fuller was arrested along with former Clemson teammate Jadar Johnson and former high school teammate Quaven Ferguson and charged with armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The case has not gone to trial.
Beeks said she doesn't want Fuller to be remembered as someone charged with a crime who hadn't had his day in court to defend himself against the accusations.
Family photos show Fuller graduated from Clemson in August with a degree in sociology.
"C.J. had a lot of good to give the world," Beeks said. "Now, he won't have the chance."
Scott Keepfer and Bob Castello of The Greenville News contributed to this report.