Article Provided by The Gamecock
Issue date: 6/22/05 Section: Sports
The tag on the front of his Crown Victoria says it all. Small Gamecock logos surround his last name, which is written: F-USC-I. Fusci once said, "I was meant to be a Gamecock" based on the logic that you "Take USC, put an F in front and an I in back, and you've got FUSCI."
Fusci, a New York City native and boyhood friend of legendary Gamecock basketball coach Frank McGuire, left Brooklyn after a stellar high-school career. His days at Manual Training High School earned him All-New York, All-Metro and a spot in the Schoolboy Hall of Fame.
But USC wasn't his first choice. Fusci had dreams of continuing to ride the subway to college and playing football at Fordham University. A war-time crunch sidelined those dreams, as Fordham discontinued its football program.
Fusci arrived in Columbia in 1941 ready to play for coach Rex Enright. After a year of hard work, Fusci earned a starting spot on the 1942 varsity squad, which would start the legend that is "Dynamite Dom."
Fusci's honors as a player were numerous, including being the school's first All-Southern tackle. His playing career was interrupted when he joined the Navy for World War II in 1944 - but not without consequence. During his time in the service, Fusci received news that he had been drafted by the Washington Redskins in the third round of the NFL draft.
"I went to my commanding officer and told him I had a letter saying I was needed in Washington and asked him to issue orders. He said the navy should have notified him first and when I showed him the letter, he said, 'Get your ass back on that boat.'"
At the time, professional football wasn't Fusci's forte, as the Redskins could only offer him $175 a game, which was not enough to keep Fusci from finishing out his college career.
Fusci returned to Columbia, where he led the Gamecocks as an All-Southern Second Team tackle in 1946. After graduating from Carolina, Fusci finally made it to the professional level after being drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1947. His playing time started in the old American Football League where he played for the Patterson Panthers for two seasons, earning All-Pro honors on offense and defense in 1948. The next season would be Fusci's last in the pros, as he moved up to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1949 and became the only USC player to earn a spot on the College All-Star Game roster in Chicago.
With all those honors also came major recognition later in his life, as Fusci is one of the oldest living lettermen from USC and one of two to be in the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the USC Hall of Fame and the 100-Year Anniversary USC Team.
While the accolades are enough to stagger even the biggest football fan, the stories of Fusci's time on the gridiron are what really made him a Gamecock legend.
Fusci was known for his wild antics, especially on the field. One such story comes from a game against in-state rival The Citadel. After the Gamecocks were hammered with numerous penalty flags that negated big gains, Fusci decided to help his team. A huge run downfield looked like it would be erased as a flag was dropped near the line of scrimmage. But as the referees followed the action downfield, Fusci took to the opportunity to move the marker a bit further from its original spot, taking a potential 15-yard penalty and transforming it into a nice USC gain, to the dismay of the screaming Bulldog coaching staff.
Some of Fusci's best work came against his hated rivals, the Clemson Tigers. During the 1943 "Big Thursday" game, USC opened up a wide lead on the Tigers. But a new face showed up during a Carolina huddle, and when asked who he was, the new player said he'd been sent in to play right tackle. A stunned Fusci had to think quick to keep USC from getting a penalty for too many men on the field, and as the team broke huddle, he made a mad dash for the Clemson sideline as the Tiger coaching staff begged their defense to "watch the man in motion." The Clemson defense reacted by over-pursuing, and as Fusci dove to the sideline, halfback Phil Cantore raced downfield for a 70-yard touchdown.
The story doesn't end there, as Fusci proceeded to answer Clemson coach Frank Howard's questions of what he was doing with a remark about taking his boys home before they got hurt. As Fusci walked around the sidelines to get back to the home side, he made a quick stop at a concession stand, asking for a hot dog and a coke. When asked to pay the 35-cent cost for the snack, Fusci asked the vendor "Where'm I gonna get 35 cents?" showing his football uniform had no pockets and saying "Just chalk it up to over-subsidization of athletes."
Today, Fusci is retired from a career as an RCA distributor in the Midlands, one of the most successful distributors the corporation has ever seen. Fusci, a former president of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and numerous winner of the state handball championship, is still active in his pursuit of health and can be found swimming laps at the Blatt P.E. Center most mornings during the week.