“Our Son, the Football Star”
Originally posted September 2, 1997
Last week the Viking Underground brought you the only coverage to be found on the ‘Net on the Viking Kick-Off Luncheon. For that matter, you couldn’t even find mention of it in our illustrious Minneapolis media coverage.
In our continuing effort to bring you the best, most positive, insightful and truthful Viking coverage anywhere today, the Viking Underground now brings you another exclusive: an interview with starting defensive back Corey Fuller’s mother, Alice Fuller-Bates, and step-mother, Matrena Davis-Bates, to bring a unique perspective to our understanding of a professional football player’s life.
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Alice and Matrena, and they had a ball with it as well. After reading the interview you’ll have to ask yourself, where can I find two bigger Viking football fans and prouder mothers than these?
VU: When did you first realize that Corey was good enough to play professional football?
AF: I never really thought that far. He always wanted to play and I supported him. But I guess I realized he had the potential when he started playing at Rickards High School, [Florida]. He did very well. (Corey had 36 tackles, 11 passes defended and 3 interceptions in 1989.)
VU: Take me back to Draft Day 1995 and describe that day for me from a parent’s perspective.
MD: Nervous, anxious. It was very difficult waiting. I can’t imagine how the parents of those drafted in the 5th through 7th rounds handled it. Corey was the 55th pick, and boy was I glad it was over. Of course, he was watching the TV in the bedroom, and no one went in there but William Floyd of the [San Francisco] 49ers. The rest of us were praying in the living room!
AF: I was anxious and praying he would be drafted. After his name was called there was a lot of hollering and tears of JOY! It was a great day!
VU: Who was the first person from the Vikings to contact Corey after he was drafted?
AF: One of the defensive coaches. Can’t remember the name. It was so chaotic in the house at the time.
VU: What were your first impressions of the Viking organization and coaching staff?
AF: I thought they were a fine organization, very professional, and the absolute BEST, because they drafted my son.
MD: I thought the same. Everything went smoothly and Corey left that night for Minnesota. I have always been a fan since the days of Tarkenton, Page and Rashad and the hail-Mary passes, but of course, since then, the Vikings are my number one team!
VU: One constantly hears how young players sign for large dollar, multi-year contracts, then invest their money unwisely and foolishly. How has your family approached this subject with Corey and how is he preparing for life after football? Has Viking Player Relations Coordinator Leo Lewis assisted in helping Corey make post-football plans?
AF: Corey’s business and investments are his own. However, he has been constantly reminded that there is life after football, and he needs to prepare for it.
VU: What do you hear from Corey about Coach Dennis Green?
AF: He has stated that he likes Coach Green, but he rarely talks to me about the coaches.
VU: Dennis Green has his hands full with Corey and Orlando Thomas, two very talkative players. What advice do you have for the Coach on how to handle these two?
AF: If he needs to, all Coach Green has to do is tell Corey that he is going to call Alice Mae.
MD: That’s all it will take. I know! He is very mannerable and respectful, especially of his mother.
VU: During Corey’s rookie year he forced fumbles from Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders. How did those two players respond to Corey after the games?
MD: I love it. I don’t know about Barry, but Emmitt did not speak to Corey after that game. Corey mentioned it, but it didn’t bother him in the least.
VU: How did the family celebrate Corey’s first touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995? I missed it entirely, being in Moscow at the time.
AF: We were very proud, but it would have been better if we had seen the game.
VU: Corey has been nicknamed “Pokey” after his incident with Frank Winters of the Green Bay Packers last year. As parents, how did you discuss that topic with Corey?
AF: I tried to explain that sometimes you have to walk away in the face of adversity and disregard what people say to you, even though it makes you angry. It is hard for Corey to do sometimes, but he is getting better, I think. (Smile)
MD: I expect him to get angry, even though he talks rather frequently! But I ask that he not be so obvious with retaliatory actions and not in front of the ref. He has a handle on it now. (Praying as I say this. Smile)
VU: Any comment on the spitting incident at Tampa Bay with Trent Dilfer two years back?
AF: “Boy, I know you didn’t do that, because I raised you better.”
MD: Alice and I were at that game, and we couldn’t see what happened. But I was surprised and very pissed off at Dilfer’s remarks that Corey would be accused of that type of reaction. He told me that he didn’t do it as he was in his [Dilfer’s] face “politely” requesting that he throw the ball his way, and I think Trent may have gotten too close!
VU: In Corey’s football career including high school, college and professional, which single individual has been his greatest influence and guiding light?
AF: I don’t recall a particular mentor. He always worked hard and respected his elders.
MD: I can’t recall one either.
VU: Corey has been recognized throughout his college and professional football career for his community involvement. Can you tell us why “giving back” to the community is so important to Corey?
AF: Corey gives back to the community because he got where he is due to community programs and dedicated people willing to help. He wants to return the favor. We were poor and appreciated any help we received.
VU: Have you had a chance to witness games at the Metrodome? If so, how have you found the crowd and atmosphere?
AF: Yes, [at the Dallas game in 1995] the crowd was great and the game was very exciting.
MD: It was my first time to Minnesota and a professional game. I won’t count the Buccaneers. There were shakers [pompoms] in each seat at the Metrodome, and the crowd was hyped. We could not talk after the game due to all the screaming, especially when Corey ran down Emmitt. I loved it!
VU: What has been your favorite Viking game to date? What has been your least favorite Viking game?
AF & MD: The [Dallas] game was our favorite. Our least favorite was the game against Green Bay [12/22/96] which resulted in a $30,000 fine!
VU: Can you share a football embarrassing moment with us about Corey that he would rather not have anyone know about?
AF: During one of his high school games, Corey ran a touchdown to the wrong end zone!
MD: I guess he didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t even know! (smile) He didn’t do anything embarrassing while playing in Daytona Beach the year he lived with me.
VU: How did you discover the Viking Underground web site and what do you like about it? How do you find the fans’ reactions being posted in the Purple Thoughts area and do you find their opinions pessimistic, optimistic or right on target?
MD: I am always in CNNSI, and one of the posts listed the Viking Underground site. Of course, it is bookmarked for life! I enjoy the fan remarks. Most are very positive and criticism is constructive. I’ve never read anything derogatory.
VU: Have you ever disagreed with a referee’s call against Corey?
AF & MD: Yes, many times. They see more penalties than we do! (Smile)
VU: Did you ever try to influence Corey down a certain path other than football?
AF: No, whatever he wanted to do, as long as it was right and legal, I supported him. I encouraged sports to keep him busy!
VU: Is Corey any different off the field than on?
AF: Not really.
MD: No, he is just a bit more talkative!
VU: Any advice for mothers whose sons want to be football players?
AF: Support them, but encourage them to complete college. An education is much more important.
VU: Have you ever feared that, God forbid, Corey could suffer a serious injury on the field?
AF & MD: All the time. Which is why education is so important. We look at pro football as a temporary career because it can end on any given play.
VU: What is Corey’s favorite pre-game meal?
AF: I’m not sure what he has taken a liking to since he has been a Viking.
MD: I’m not sure either, but I would think any meal with chicken is okay.
VU: Any sibling rivalry in the family?
AF & MF: No, not any more. Corey’s brother passed in 1992. He was also good in football.
VU: Which football players did Corey pretend to be growing up?
AF: None that I can think of. Corey really didn’t watch much football on TV.
VU: From a parent’s perspective, what are Corey’s goals in football and life?
AF: Corey recently told me that his goal is to play as long as he can contribute to the game, and when it is over he wants to build a home for troubled youth. Probably because his younger brother died tragically after becoming involved with the wrong crowd.
VU: So what has Corey bought you since joining the Vikes?
AF: A new car [Infiniti Q45] and paid some of my bills. He is such a good kid!
VU: What are your thoughts on the state of NFL ownership in regards to demands for new stadiums and teams moving from city to city?
MD: I think that cities with NFL teams should try to keep them there if at all possible. The owner should try to be more considerate of the fans.
AF: Whatever is best for the team should be the primary concern, usually staying where they are.
VU: Where do you see the Vikings finishing this year?
AF & MD: Number one. Division champs!