When athletes are asked to list their strengths, many say the same thing. Their great speed, strength or overall athleticism often are the first qualities that come to mind. Certainly, those redeeming qualities serve as the springboard to their professional career.
Yet, you won't hear Curtis Fuller talking about his physical attributes. He'd rather talk about what he thinks is the greatest power of all: his knowledge.
Fuller, who is 5-10 and 188 pounds, believes that being a smart football player is the best thing he has to offer. Although he has other strengths besides knowledge, Fuller admits that his NFL life, as well as his life outside of football, centers on being a smart individual.
After being claimed off waivers from Seattle one game into the season, Fuller played in nine games for the Packers in 2003. The safety from Texas Christian University (TCU) is entering his fourth season in the NFL and again is in the defensive backfield with the Packers.
Fuller said that he only worries about what he can control and size doesn't figure into that equation.
"Do I wish I was 6-2 and 210 pounds? Sure I do," Fuller said, "but this is what God gave me and I have to be able to use it. Knowing the game is my strength and it's what keeps me around."
The way Fuller sees it, he doesn't have the luxury to rely on his athleticism like many players do. He just wants to learn as much as he can and get better along the way.
"I watch film the night before practice and I always pick something to work on the next day," Fuller said. "Whether it be footwork, my reads, my eyes or my tackling, I always pick something little to work on the next day."
To some, there isn't much glory in being a student of the game. Making a great play would probably please most players, but Fuller doesn't see it that way. He said he doesn't care who makes the plays as long as he is helping his team be successful.
"It goes back to knowledge," Fuller explained. "I have to be able to prepare my teammates to know what to expect. If I know a certain formation or a team's tendencies, I have to alert my teammate. Knowing down and distance, knowing situations and knowing what each player is doing on the field makes my position easier.
"If I can communicate and tell the guy next to me, 'hey, they are going to throw a slant on the back side,' and he makes the play by knocking it down or picking it off, I'm helping my team win. That's what counts."
Although Fuller loves to play football, he's not consumed by it. In fact, he mentioned that he didn't even think of playing in the NFL until his junior season at TCU.
"Playing in the NFL has never been a dream," Fuller said. "I remember growing up and wanting to be Earl Campbell on the playground, but I was never like 'oh, I have to play in the NFL.' I was never like that. It never really became reality until my junior season when the coaches told me that I could play at the next level."
Had Fuller not made it to the NFL, or if his playing days are cut unexpectedly short, he won't have to worry about having something to fall back on.
Fuller earned a degree in psychology and a master's degree in liberal arts by the time he was drafted in 2001. Although he plays football, he has found time to utilize his education.
Since his junior year at TCU, Fuller has interned for Frito Lay in the summers, most recently in the Human Resources Department in the area of Organizational Management Development.
Fuller said that his responsibilities included doing research on an organization to find what he could do to make it better. He also was involved in benefits, risk management, and other areas of the Human Resources Department, which has eight divisions.
According to Fuller, working at Frito Lay has been beneficial in more ways than one.
"It kind of gives me a chance to get away from football," Fuller said. "My personal opinion is that you have to get away from it at times and see the business world. It gives me a chance to use my degree and it's important because you need to get in the business world and make contacts."
It's hard to believe that Fuller has any free time, but when he does, he and his wife, Rachel, heave found themselves traveling to Mexico the last four summers to help build and restore churches.
It sounds like a lot of work, but Fuller said he wouldn't trade it for anything.
"It's been fun," Fuller said. "It's a chance to get away from football and spend time with some of the kids from our church's Vacation Bible School that go with us. You get a chance to bond with the adults, too. The time we spend with those folks is priceless. I learn from those guys just like I do from anyone else."
Right now Fuller said his main concern is Packers football. For a man who has accomplished a great deal in his 26 years, one thing still catches him by surprise during training camp.
"Green Bay is amazing," Fuller explains. "When I was at Seattle, we were lucky to have 200 people on a practice day, so 70,000 people at a scrimmage is wild. To have all these people at practice is unbelievable, too. It's a little bit surprising and just the tradition of riding the bikes and the history that's here in Green Bay; it's great to be a part of."
Assistant defensive backs coach Lionel Washington said that Fuller is definitely in the mix to remain a part of the Packers organization and its tradition.
"Curtis is doing an excellent job," Washington said. "He's one of the smartest players in our secondary and he understands exactly what we are doing. He's a good athlete and he makes plays.
"Right now, we don't know what his ticket will be. It could be special teams, defense, whatever. We just ask the guys to come out and play hard. He has to work as hard as he's been working and we'll see what happens. We know Curtis Fuller will give it his best effort"
Still, Fuller said he doesn't take anything for granted.
"Everybody knows that football isn't going to last forever and you never know when your number is not going to be called anymore," Fuller said. "You never know when you might have to learn to use your brain and not your feet or your hands."
You get the feeling that when that time comes, Curtis Fuller will be just fine.