SAN ANTONIO — Members of the Texas athletic community continue to mourn the death of Cody Fuller, a former two-sport star athlete for Texas Tech, following his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Fuller played football and baseball for the Red Raiders before he was diagnosed in March of this year; he died shortly thereafter, in mid-May.
Fuller's wife, Cassie, spoke to KENS 5 about her husband's life, saying she wanted to know what he stood for and could still represent for others. We also spoke to her daughter, Chandler; Larry Hill, head football coach at Smithson Valley; and Chad Koehl, head baseball coach at Smithson Valley.
This story essentially has three chapters. We started with Cassie's thoughts on the cancer battle that took Cody's life on May 15.
"I literally fell on the floor and started crying," Cassie said. "I knew the statistics were totally against him, but Cody picked me up, and from that day said, 'I'm OK. I'm not worried about me. I'm worried about you. I'm gonna fight as long as I can, and when I can't fight any longer, I know I get to go see Jesus. But I'm sad for you, and I'm sad for the kids because I have to leave you behind.'"
"Through all that," Cassie says, "and I'm doing all I can to listen, Cody leans up out of bed and says, 'Cassie, let's go home.' He said, 'We've done everything we can.' He said, 'Just take me home, and let's go be a family.'
"He made that choice. He wanted to come home and be with the kids in our environment and not die in the hospital."
Cassie discussed the full life Cody led in his 39 years, and the impact he leaves on so many.
"He wasn't just a guy who was going to choose his own path," she said. "His path was dictated by scripture and by the person that he thought God wanted him to be. He was living that out daily."
Hill, who coached Fuller at Smithson Valley High, said he was a good person "just about any way you turned him."
"He's one of those rare individuals that really lacked for nothing," Hill said.
"I could just tell that he was content with the diagnosis," Chandler added. "He said, 'I know where I am going. I know you are all going to be sad, but I'm not sad and I'm not scared.' He just lived that each and every day."
Koehl said that, for all that talent he displayed on the diamond, it paled in comparison to the man Fuller was off it.
"The perfect word for Cody Fuller is faith," Koehl said.
There's no question Cody was driven by his deep faith. A story he shared with Cassie one night not long after his diagnosis sums up the measure of the man.
"The first time he ever said that to me was at 2 a.m. He woke up, grabbed my hand and said, 'Why not me? I know what my purpose here on earth was, so why not me?' He said, 'I'm ready to go be with Jesus, if that's where he needs me to be.'"
Coach Hill offered this thought:
"I can only think that they were short one tremendous man in heaven, and we're gonna have to get us a draft pick and he was the No. 1 pick."
Fuller lived by giving his all both in uniform and out of it. According to Cassie, her husband embodied the message that there's a bigger purpose to just scoring a run or a touchdown.
"You are given God-given talent, but what you do with that is what makes you special," Cassie says. "Cody gave so much to the community. I think that is why so many people loved him and rallied around him, because he rallied for them for so many years."
Coach Hill and Coach Koehl had the opportunity to spend some time with Cody in the days before his death. '
"(He said), 'You know, coach, I'm gonna be alright and I want you all to keep rocking on with your program like you've done, because it meant something to me,'" Hill recalled. "That teared me up. But that also reminded me that he is going to be gone and was a few days later, but we have to go forward and his example needs to be an inspiration as we go forward."
Coach Koehl added to that thought.
"Cody's family and his community believe that God picked him to do what he did. Cody is still working through all of us," he said. "Some individuals are blessed with those rare qualities, and one of those is the ability to instinctively follow your lead. He just had that 'it' factor that made people around him better, and made people around him wanna follow him."
Cassie finished with this thought:
"That was his biggest message: Go and bring people to Christ. Through me, don't let my life stop. Let it live on."