When he heard the news that his good friend and former teammate was gone, Giants running back Wayne Gallman was shocked.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Gallman told Newsday in the Giants’ locker room Thursday.
Former Clemson running back C.J. Fuller, who played with Gallman on the Tigers’ 2016 national championship team, died Wednesday after being taken to Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville, S.C. The cause of death has not been released.
“I was close to C.J., and it’s still crazy to believe that it happened,” Gallman said. “I’m still getting details about what happened, but I’m not sure yet. I pray for his family. I know his family is already hurting, so I don’t want to ask them too many questions.”
Gallman had never lost someone so close – friend or relative – so he was still coming to grips with Fuller’s passing. But he did take comfort from Clemson running backs coach/co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, who was in touch with Gallman and several other current and former Tigers players after Fuller’s death.
“Coach Elliott was just at the hospital, and he prayed with the family,” Gallman said. “[Elliott’s] good, so I’m good.”
Gallman smiled as he thought back to memories of Fuller.
“We all had nicknames in the running backs room, and C.J.’s was ‘Bread’ because he always had a little pudge to him,” Gallman said of the 5-10, 215-pound tailback. “He was the only one that was always pudgy.”
It was a tight-knit group of running backs that also included Tavien Feaster, T.J. Chase, Tyshon Dye and Adam Choice. They all got along, and all took delight in busting on Elliott.
“Just remember all the times we used to laugh at coach Elliott in our position meetings,” Gallman said. “All the running backs would hang out a lot, and we all got along. And we all loved coach Elliott. He was one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”
Fuller's life had veered off track in recent months. He left the team after the 2017 season after losing the starting job, hoping to transfer to another school. That never happened. On March 28, he and former Clemson safety Jadar Johnson and former Duke football player Quaven Ferguson were arrested for an alleged armed robbery at a former Clemson teammate’s apartment. The three were released on bond, and charges were pending at the time of Fuller’s death.
Gallman was aware of the incident, but foremost on his mind Thursday was the loss of his friend.
“I remember seeing him when he came on a recruiting visit when I first met him,” Gallman said. “Really great guy. Our running back group was tight.”
Gallman admits he can’t dwell too long on Fuller’s death, because he must concentrate his energies on helping the Giants out of an early-season slump. At 1-3, the Giants head to Carolina on Sunday to face the Panthers.
Gallman himself was a factor in last Sunday’s 33-18 loss to the Saints, losing a fumble in the second quarter that was converted into a Saints field goal to give them a lead they never relinquished.
“Got to do everything I can to help the team,” Gallman said. “Right now, I’m in the zone. That’s where I have to be.”
Still, some things go beyond football. Losing a good friend is one of them.
“Still hard to believe,” Gallman said. “I’ll definitely miss him.”