There was the one-handed snag against Eastern Washington that instantly summoned the spotlight. There was the diving grab later that day that served as his opening-game curtain call.
There was the dime he reeled in against Hawaii, the two defenders he split vs. BYU, and of, course, the 88-yard punt return in Provo to put his team up by 26.
This is how Washington receiver Aaron Fuller has five touchdowns to his name in 2019, which is one more than last year’s total. This is how a three-star recruit from the Lone Star state is stamping his senior year.
Fuller said Tuesday that he doesn’t go back and watch his highlights until the end of the season, as he’d prefer to focus on the future instead of the past. At this rate, though, that end-of-the-year reel may be feature-film length.
“It’s great to have a target like him out there. He makes some crazy catches,” Washington quarterback Jacob Eason said of Fuller, who has 259 receiving yards on 21 catches this season. “You can put the ball in some tight windows with him. It’s great to have him on your side.”
Fuller might not be as physically gifted as, say, Hunter Bryant, the UW tight end with 285 receiving yards this season. He might not have NFL scouts oohing or mock-drafters aahing, either. But when the objective of the game is to score points, and he’s netted 30 of them himself this season, you’d be right to take notice.
Fuller was former Huskies quarterback Jake Browning’s favorite target last season, when he led the team in receptions (58) and receiving yards (874). It wasn’t until Week 4 against Arizona State, however, that he scored his first touchdown.
He did throw for a score against Washington State, meaning he played a hand in five TDs (and earned a passer rating of 614.8), but early signs indicate he’ll pulverize his end-zone production from his junior season.
Players such as center Nick Harris and safety Myles Bryant credit Fuller’s approach to practice as the reason for his proficiency in games. Bryant particularly relishes going up against Fuller during workouts, calling him one of the best receivers in the Pac-12.
As for the team’s reaction when watching some of those “SportsCenter”-worthy grabs?
“I feel like everybody goes pretty crazy,” Bryant said. “But then again, I feel like he’s made a few of those plays in practice, so it’s not really a surprise.”
Fuller said his greatest strides from last year to this year have come in the form of confidence. He’s grown comfortable in the role as a top target, and perhaps more so as a returner.
In 2018 Fuller returned 22 punts for 122 yards and no scores. This year he’s amassed 108 yards on six returns. Yes, 88 of those came one down against BYU. But after studying film of former teammate Dante Pettis — the NCAA’s all-time leader in punt-return touchdowns — the apprentice hopes to inch closer to master status.
“On special teams it’s like a fighter’s mentality — you punch ’em until you get that knockout,” Fuller said. “Something big I focused on this year was punt returns, just being more confident and taking more risks but also being smart at the same time.”
On Saturday the 17th-ranked Huskies (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) meet No. 21 USC (3-1, 1-0), which beat Washington the last time it was in Seattle. A win could be vital to UW repeating as conference champion.
What Fuller’s impact will be? No one can say yet. But don’t be surprised if he sparks big cheers in Husky Stadium on Saturday, and equally big cheers in the film room Sunday.