It's been almost 30 years since Steve Fuller retired from football. But that doesn't mean the accolades get old.
"The further your get away from it, the more you appreciate it," Fuller said Thursday. "I don't know if it means more, but you appreciate it."
Fuller, the former Clemson All-American and NFL quarterback who lives in Bluffton, is one of 16 finalists for the inaugural class of the new S.C. College Football Hall of Fame being organized by the board of directors of the S.C. College All Star Bowl.
More than 40 South Carolina gridiron greats were nominated for the initial class by the state's college football media. That number was trimmed to 16 finalists, and the eight-member inaugural class will be announced Jan. 30 and enshrined March 23 during the game at North Greenville University.
The finalists include: Clemson's Banks McFadden, Terry Kinard, Frank Howard, Steve Fuller, Jeff Davis, Bennie Cunningham and Danny Ford; the University of South Carolina's George Rogers and Sterling Sharpe; South Carolina State University's Harry Carson, Willie Jeffries and Donnie Shell; Furman's Sam Wyche; Michigan State's George Webster; Newberry's Glen Cumbee and University of Tampa's Fred Solomon.
They were whittled from an initial list of more than 40 nominees.
"It's always an honor to be included with a group like that, no matter what the circumstances or the forum," Fuller said. "That is a nice group. I'm indeed honored to be associated with that crowd."
Fuller finished his career at Clemson with 4,359 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,737 yards and 22 scores.
His numbers at Clemson may seem pedestrian when compared with the numbers posted by current Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd, but Fuller was sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1978.
"(The game has) changed quite a bit, especially offensively and statistically," Fuller said. "But that's a good thing. It's nice that that it does kind of fit the athletes of the day and the coaching styles of the day, and I think it will forever do that."
After being drafted 23rd overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1979, Fuller spent eight seasons in the NFL, including a key role for the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears, before retiring after the 1986 season.
In his football career, Fuller led the Tigers to an 11-1 record and No. 6 final record in 1978, beat Ohio State and Woody Hayes in the Gator Bowl, was a two-time Academic All-American, was a first-round draft pick, won a Super Bowl ring and was an inaugural member of Clemson's Ring of Honor.
But it's what he's done afterward that he may be proudest of.
Initially, after he retired, Fuller wanted to do something different. He got into real estate and still works with Colleton River Plantation. But as the years went by, Fuller said, he missed football more and more.
So Fuller got into coaching at the high school level.
He started at Hilton Head Prep, helping quarterback Michael Hermann and the Dolphins to a SCISAA Class 2-A championship in 2007, and went from there to Hilton Head Island High, where as offensive coordinator, he has helped develop quarterback Michael Julian, who has scholarship offers from Boston College, Wisconsin, Indiana, Toledo, East Carolina and Marshall, among others.
"I think I get as much or more than the kids do out of it. I've always felt that way," Fuller said. "I love coaching high school kids because they still have that gleam in their eye or that idealistic approach to everything. They listen to you. They trust that your experience, the things that you've done before them, does mean something."
Despite his success as an offensive coordinator, Fuller has resisted the urge to tackle on a head coaching job.
"I think if I did that, I needed to do it right when I (retired)," Fuller said. "... I just turned 56. I wouldn't totally rule it out. But I don't think I'd want to pick up my roots. But you know, if it fell in my lap, I wouldn't totally rule it out."
Fuller said people involved with the All Star Bowl approached him to discuss deserving players such as Hermann, as well as to enlist is help bring former Clemson coach Danny Ford into the fold.
But he said Hermann received an invite and Ford came on board without any efforts from him.
So for now, Fuller's only involvement with the game is being on the list of Hall of Fame finalists.
But it will be a tough ballot. Nine of the 16 finalists are College Football Hall of Famers. Fuller isn't one of them.
"It will work itself out, and I appreciate being included," Fuller said. "We'll just follow it wherever it goes."