Exploding off the left end, Tim Fugger pounded Mississippi State’s quarterback into the Vanderbilt Stadium grass just after he made a pitch to his tailback. The next quarter, he was on top of a Bulldog fumble forced by Sean Richardson to set up a tying field goal for the Commodores.
Three starts into his Commodore career, this defensive end convert was well into showing off the speed that made him a prep track star, when he set a 100-meter personal best of 10.8 seconds.
“The way the conference is, a lot of spread, a lot of speed, Tim’s always going to have a chance to do what he does. With a sprinting background, it gives him an advantage,” said defensive ends mentor Mike Pelton.
Fugger (pronounced FEW-gur) was recruited as a tight end after helping lead Montini Catholic High School in Chicago to the playoffs with 14 catches for 267 yards and two touchdowns. But two weeks into the 2007 preseason camp, the agile Fugger was placed on the line. After serving as a defensive scout that year, he played in nine games in 2008, including significant action during Vanderbilt’s Music City Bowl victory.
With injuries limiting returning starters Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone last season, Fugger made the position his own, posting eight starts and a career-high 21 tackles, 11 solo, including a sack.
Fugger is equally adept as a pass rusher and run stopper from the end position. The added weight since moving to defense hasn’t lessened his speed; if anything it seems to have enhanced it.
“I came in, I think I was right around 215, and I’m weighing in about 260 right now, so I’ve put on about 45 pounds,” Fugger said. “Working with (strength coach John) Sisk and all the workouts we have are so explosive, the weight you put on just helps you.”
For the better part of two seasons, he and fellow ends Theron Kadri and Teriall Brannon got to watch two of the conference’s best play ahead of them in Stone and Stewart, who combined for 28.5 sacks in their Vanderbilt careers.
“Stone is probably one of the smartest football players I’ve ever witnessed,” Fugger said. “Just getting that experience behind him was really awesome, and Broderick was just a freak athlete. He was really good with helping me learn moves, using my hands, and other little tricks. I don’t think I would be the player I am today without either of them.”
Fugger has been limited recently in practice by bumps and bruises but nothing debilitating. “He’s a great leader and we expect good things from him,” Pelton said. “He’s been battling a few injuries, but we’re just trying to get him back to full speed. He’s been working his tail off.”
That’s been a common theme among the Commodores during this offseason. Fugger may have had a career year in 2009, but the team’s two-win result was a disappointment. Dripping sweat but smiling at the end of another hot August practice, the former sprinter embraces the hard work that accompanies the acknowledgment for needed improvement.
“I think the season helped us out this summer, Fugger said. “We just worked that much harder, whether it’s 5:30 in the morning running stadium (steps) or out here running sprints in the 100-degree heat.”