Tim Fugger (above with Vice Chancellor Williams, mother Karen Fugger, brother Brian Fugger and wife Courtney, brother Mark Fugger and cousin Michael Marshall, kneeling) had an outstanding senior campaign for Coach James Franklin's Commodores.
Before the 2011 football season, few people probably knew the name Tim Fugger. That rapidly changed this season as the Commodores' most consistent defensive end made quite a name for himself.
Still, earlier this season ESPN Blogger Chris Low called Fugger one of the most underrated players in the Southeastern Conference. As Fugger's Vanderbilt career comes to a close, people are finally noticing the VU senior who, according to Low, is "one of those guys who never takes a play off."
After coming to Vanderbilt a year ago, it did not take Head Coach James Franklin long to notice Fugger.
"He's everything you want in a kid," Franklin said. "He's tough. He's got a great motor, tremendous work ethic. He comes to practice every single day with an unbelievable attitude--just whatever he can do to get better individually to help our team. He's been a great example and mentor to our young players of how to practice. I wish we had him for another four years."
Tim Fugger took a circuitous route to Vanderbilt, traveling all the way across the United States during his formative years, but all the while building ties to the Commodore football program. The youngest of three boys, he grew up in the San Diego area where oldest brother Brian played center at St. Augustine High School with future Vanderbilt quarterback Richard Kovalcheck (MBA, '08).
In 2003, the Fugger family moved to Florida, where Tim would enroll at Bishop Kenny High School for his freshman year. In Jacksonville, Fugger became close friends with fullback Ryan van Rensburg ('10), a future Commodore teammate who also was a part of Vanderbilt's 2007 signing class.
During his sophomore season, tragedy struck when Tim's father, Peter Fugger, passed away. According to his eldest sibling, Tim showed immeasurable strength in the face of that loss.
"He didn't miss any class, didn't miss any practices," Brian said. "It would have been an easy thing for him to do. I can't explain how strong he is. He's just always worked hard and done what's right. Always."
The Fugger family moved from Florida to the west Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Ill., where Tim enrolled at Montini Catholic High School before his junior season. Fugger was a multi-talented athlete, using his combination of strength and speed to excel in basketball and track and field while playing both tight end and defensive end for the Broncos. The Commodores offered him a scholarship on the offensive side of the ball.
In the weight room, Fugger established a school record for reps in the 225-pound bench press, while out on the track he was a conference champion and placed third in the prestigious city 100 meters. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Fugger notes that he was usually the largest man in the starting blocks by a good 40 or 50 pounds.
After arriving on campus in the summer of 2007, Fugger made friends quickly with VU's other true freshman tight end, Brandon Barden. The duo has remained great friends despite no longer playing the same position. Barden believes he can pinpoint the day Fugger's career as a tight end was no more.
"One day in practice, we both went in motion and hit each other in the middle," Barden said. "We say we made our own play. Ever since then, I always pick on him about going in motion, because I was the one that was supposed to do it.... A couple weeks later, we were at Dore Jam and he came up to me and he was like, `Man, I'm leaving for defensive end.'"
Four years later, few could argue with the decision to put Fugger on defense. After redshirting in 2007 and being slowed by injury in 2008, Fugger earned eight starts as a sophomore in 2009. Last season he was among SEC leaders in forced fumbles.
But the 2011 campaign has been a breakout year for Fugger, who has ranked among conference leaders in both sacks and tackles for loss all season. He had surpassed his previous career high for tackles with three weeks remaining in the regular season while starting every game at defensive end for the Commodores.
According to Fugger, his excellent season can be attributed to assistant coach Sean Spencer bringing a new attitude to the defensive line.
"We just have a whole new energy about us," Fugger said. "I think that's pretty evident when you watch us play. We're all running to the ball. Some of the plays aren't spectacular plays, they might just be effort plays. Someone beats a block and forces a running back to change field, and I'll be hustling after him and be able to make the play on the other side.
"Coach Spence has put a big emphasis on us just getting off the ball, really exploding and trying to beat the tackle to his spot and beat the blocks before they can get to you. I feel like we've been doing that and have all become more productive."
Fugger also appreciates the reps he gets in practice against another fifth-year senior, offensive tackle Kyle Fischer.
"I credit Kyle for a lot of my success this year," Fugger said. "He's been a great tackle, and watching him progress from freshman year, we've both just made each other so much better. Every time I get to go against him in practice I have to take full advantage of it because he gives me a full game look as well as any SEC tackle. He's one of the premier tackles in this league."
While the hard-working Fugger's public persona is unassuming, teammates and coaches know other sides of him. Barden sees a lighter side of Fugger, while Coach Franklin appreciates his ability to lead.
"A lot of people think he's quiet," Barden said. "But he's really not. He runs his mouth a lot. And he's always trying to pick jokes with me and all of our other buddies."
"He's not afraid to speak up when he needs to," Franklin said. "He's just a real solid guy. Because of his actions, and because of his work ethic, and because of the example he sets, I think he has everybody's respect, the coaches' as well as the players'."