<
>

Draft hopeful Devin Fuller hopes to make his game sing in NFL

Devin Fuller tries to make a catch against Colorado last October. Fuller's final season at UCLA was slowed by injury, but he's likely back on NFL teams' draft boards after a solid pro day. Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

You’ve heard Cindy Mizelle even if you don’t realize it; if at any point in the past three decades you’ve listed to music -- be it rock, jazz, funk, blues, R&B and even pop -- your ears have no doubt been treated to her soulful sound.

You’ve seen Devin Fuller even if you can’t place the name; if at any point in the past four years you’ve watched a UCLA football game, you’ve probably noticed No. 7 in the Bruins’ blue and gold flash across the field.

Like mother, like son.

Mizelle passed on the gift of performance to her oldest son, even as their stages are different.

The 22-year-old Fuller is one of a few hundred prospects who hopes to hear his name called during the three-day NFL draft later this month. But he’s probably the only one with a well-heard -- if not well-known -- singer as his mother.

“It’s the same thing, just under different lights,” said Mizelle, who has performed with Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, the Dave Matthews Band and Alicia Keys, among others, since she became a touring singer at age 17.

“It’s just performing, getting your body to perform. I had never really heard Devin say this before, but we were watching football and I saw a play that I thought was incredible and he said, ‘Mom, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ And I said, ‘Yeah I get it.’”

In his college career, Fuller caught 146 passes for 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns, much of it with current Green Bay Packers backup Brett Hundley as his quarterback. In 2014, Hundley’s final year at UCLA, Fuller ranked second on the team in receptions with 59.

Last year as a senior, Fuller’s season was marred by head and ankle injuries that limited him to just 24 catches for 259 yards and three touchdowns -- low numbers that probably cost him an invitation to the scouting combine in February -- but the highlight was a seven-catch, 100-yard, two-touchdown game against Cal. He also returned kickoffs and punts for the Bruins.

Even in his college years, Fuller didn’t fully grasp just how big his mother’s music career is until he went to see a Springsteen show.

“The first time I went to [a Springsteen] concert, I didn’t really know who he was, to be honest with you,” he said.

Apparently, Mizelle doesn’t regularly blast around the house her trademark song with Springsteen: “Shackled and Drawn.”

Fuller, the oldest of Mizelle’s three children, was practically born into music; Mizelle was on tour with Luther Vandross while she was pregnant with him. After he was born, she stayed on the road. Mizelle said Vandross welcomed children on the road, even making room for band members’ kids on the tour bus.

“It was a family atmosphere,” Mizelle said. “They were always at sound check. They’d watch the shows. They’re memorizing the lines of the comedians who came on before us. They saw them putting up the lights. That was really something that added to who they are now.”

For Fuller, it happened to be in sports, not music.

“I played trumpet in fourth grade,” Fuller said. “But I gave it up because it was taking too much time away from football.”

When Devin began school, he stayed at home in Norwood, New Jersey, while Mizelle went back out on the road. His younger brother, Jordan, also followed his path into football and was an ESPN 300 recruit. He will begin his college career at Ohio State as a cornerback in the fall.

“Growing up, my mom was in and out," Fuller said. “Not saying it was a bad thing. She’s a supporting mother and doing what she loves. Tours and things like that would take up a lot of time that we didn’t get to spend with our mother. That didn’t affect the relationship that we had. She was very in tune. We had FaceTime at an early age.”

Fuller started as a quarterback and moved to No. 1 on the depth chart at Northern Valley Regional High School in New Jersey as a freshman. He went to UCLA as a quarterback but with several players ahead of him on the depth chart, including Hundley, he moved to receiver early in his first year.

Although he wasn’t invited to the combine, his draft stock rose after a stellar performance at the Bruins’ pro day last month. His 40-yard dash time of 4.37 seconds and 36-inch vertical jump did not go unnoticed.

“The guy who just blew it up out here today was Devin Fuller,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said after the pro day. “Everyone thinks we inflate their times, but the NFL scouts had him at 4.36 [and] 4.37, and electronically we had him at 4.37. He ran great routes, and his vertical was good. He looked tremendous.”

Since then, Fuller has made pre-draft visits to four NFL teams and has several more scheduled, including one with the Packers.

“My first goal is to get drafted,” Fuller said. “I feel like I’m a draftable player and whatever team gets me is going to get a player who dedicates himself to get better. The second goal is just to help whatever team I go to. Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to put my heart into it. I think I’ll be in a good spot after my pro day, hopefully.”

Fuller plans to spend draft weekend with friends and family in California, but Mizelle won’t be able to make it.

“Well, guess what?” said Mizelle, who’s preparing to rejoin Steely Dan. “Mom will be on tour.”