In a public report released Tuesday by the Pickens County Coroner’s Office, former Clemson running back C.J. Fuller died on Oct. 3 due to complications related to a blood clot and deep vein thrombosis.
As first reported by The Greenville News and The Charleston Post and Courier, the former Tiger officially died of pulmonary thromboembolism and deep vein thrombosis. Pulmonary thromboembolism, according to the Mayo Clinic.org, is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or, rarely, other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis).
Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelly said in the report obtained by The Clemson Insider that Fuller injured his knee on Aug. 12 at the J.B. Owens Sports Complex in Easley while playing football. He had surgery to repair the damaged knee on Sept. 19.
Kelly indicates in the report Fuller’s death is connected to the Aug. 12 knee injury.
Fuller, who transferred from Clemson last January, appeared in 43 games for Clemson across the 2015-17 seasons after redshirting during the 2014 campaign. He recorded 147 career carries for 599 yards with four rushing touchdowns in addition to catching 18 passes for 155 yards with two receiving touchdowns.
Fuller helped Clemson to three consecutive ACC Championships and College Football Playoff berths from 2015-17. He scored on a 30-yard touchdown reception in a 31-0 win against Ohio State in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl in the national semifinal. In the National Championship Game, his 20-yard kickoff return to the 32-yard line set up Clemson’s nine-play, 68-yard game-winning drive against Alabama to capture Clemson’s second national title.
Fuller attended Easley High School, where he helped lead the program to three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in school history.
Just a few days after the former Clemson running back passed away, the Tigers honored his memory by rushing for 471 yards – the fourth most in school history – and scoring six rushing touchdowns while averaging 11.8 yards per carry against the Demon Deacons at BB&T Field.
“I know C.J. was smiling on us to see us rush the ball for 471 yards and a school-record 11.8 per carry, and three running backs 125 yards or more,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said at the time. “I can’t help but think C.J. was smiling on that, to see his guys perform like that, especially in the run game.”
Fuller was heavy on the minds and in the hearts of Clemson’s players, especially the running backs, leading up to and during Saturday’s game after the 22-year-old suddenly passed away.
“We all had that sense of urgency to go out there and do what we can for him and run the ball in his memory because that’s what he was, a running back here,” running back Travis Etienne said. “We just wanted to go out here and honor him the right way.”
Etienne led Clemson with 167 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns, including a 70-yard score. Meanwhile, senior Adam Choice ran for 128 yards and a touchdown, while freshman Lyn-J Dixon had 163 yards rushing and two touchdown runs of 65 and 52 yards.
Clemson’s backs said they ran for Fuller and dictated the game to him.
“C.J. was a fearless player. He played hard. He gave it everything he had, and we wanted to embody what he stood for today when we stepped on the field,” Choice said. “So, we took pride in our performance today a lot. Today, it just felt like we needed to do a little bit more for him, just to show that we appreciate him and what he taught us and what we gave us. It was a great way to honor him.”
Fuller’s passing was especially difficult for Choice to cope with, as the two entered Clemson together as part of the Tigers’ 2014 signing class.
After a week of grieving, Choice ran with emotion as he recorded a career-high 128 yards rushing and a career long 64-yard run for a touchdown.
“I’ve been thinking about him since it happened,” Choice said. “It’s been a crazy week for me mentally, but with my brothers still here now, we push through it. We grieve together, we talked about it, we remember the good times, and at the end of the day we came out and I believe we honored him by the way we played.”
Choice said he fought tears when members of Clemson’s team stood up and shared stories and memories of Fuller during a team meeting.
What Choice remembers most about Fuller is his fun-loving personality that made everyone around him laugh and smile.
“In the team meeting, I was actually sitting down holding back tears the entire time,” Choice said. “I was honestly just sitting there reminiscing with myself about all the good times we had. I can still hear his laugh in my head right now. It’s crazy to me. But like I said, I know he’s in a better place right now, and I’m just praying for his family. I know he had a great effect on a lot of people. He touched people in a positive way. So, his impact on us, he’ll live on through us in everything that we do.”