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Pirate
Time
Machine
No. 18

With Ron Cherubini
©2001-2002 Bonesville.net

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Luke Fisher

Bowl hero set the bar for ECU tight ends

Sometimes, recruiting the athlete does pay off.

For Luke Fisher, the journey from New Jersey prep quarterback to becoming East Carolina’s best-ever pass-catching tight end was a lesson in trial and error. For ECU fans, his successes on the field became the benchmark by which each subsequent tight end has been measured — and, to some extent, the yardstick by which each subsequent edition of the Pirate offense has been judged.

“(How good) is not for me to judge,” Fisher said. “That’s for the folks that showed up every Saturday.”


Fisher in the endzone to clench the win for the Pirates against the
N.C. State Wolfpack at the 1991 Peach Bowl. (Photo: ECU SID)

The image of Fisher spread-eagled on his back in the end zone in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium after scoring the game-winning touchdown to win the 1991 Peach Bowl speaks volumes for the type of player he was and what his accomplishments meant to the Pirates' football program.

But it almost never happened, really, had it not been for some hit and miss attempts by a couple of different coaching staffs.

Fisher, a quarterback and linebacker in high school in Medford, NJ, was recruited mainly as an athlete out of college. A Northerner, for sure, Fisher had started down the recruiting road with Rutgers and Temple when East Carolina came up from the South and tempted him with a visit.

“I was very impressed with (coach) Clyde Christianson, who recruited me,” Fisher said. “He’s a great person. He seemed the most interested in me and urged me to take a visit (to Greenville).”

As Fisher recalls, “It as my first and last (visit).”

Though his first impressions sold him on ECU, he wasn’t without a small bit of hesitation.

“I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone movie,” he said. “I can remember telling my parents when we would go out to eat, that (the locals) must know that I’m a recruit at ECU… that’s why everyone is so nice. The coaches acted similar. I was impressed because they all knew my name after the first day.”

Hooked on the Pirate program, Fisher headed South, looking to find his way into the lineup. To play college football, was, in itself, enough to keep him working hard and he realized what it would take to earn his new teammates’ trust.

“It was different getting to know all of the new players,” he said. “I remember seeing some older players and thinking, ‘These guys are studs.’ I wondered how long it would take me to make a difference. I remember thinking it was little odd that my former roommate gave up a full ride and quit after two weeks because he missed his girlfriend too much.”

Fisher was committed to finding a way onto the field and nothing was going to derail him. Not a girl from back home, not school, not anything.

But, it didn’t start out that promising. Art Baker had recruited the New Jersey quarterback, but really had no real intention of playing him under center.

“I remember Clyde telling me that (ECU) recruited me as an athlete first,” Fisher said. “This meant, wherever I would fit in. Because of the ‘Run & Shoot’ and (ECU’s) current quarterback situation, I knew I would not play quarterback. Coach (Steve) Logan wasn’t there at the time.”

As it was, Fisher was quickly moved to linebacker, a position he played as a prepster.

“I played (linebacker) in high school and loved every bit of it,” he said. “Besides, (the move) happened the third day of practice, so I didn’t care much. I liked defense better anyway.”

Fisher was impressive at linebacker, but even that did not end up being the right fit. Just before his sophomore season, he was called into new coach Bill Lewis’ office.

“My last two games at linebacker I had two interceptions, two sacks, a fumble recovery, and about 15 tackles,” he recalled. “I can’t wait for the season to start, so I wonder what they have to say to (me). (Coach) Jags (Jeff Jagodzinski) gave me a compliment – with Coach Lewis’s blessing of course – and suggested that I was a good enough athlete to move to tight end.”

The move was prompted by the lack of output from the position in the pass receiving phase of the game.

“I said, ‘OK, great. I like catching the ball,’” recalls Fisher. “I thought, ‘You mean I can even score touchdowns?’”

So, springtime brought the position change and, as Fisher put it, “I had to start at the bottom and work my way up.”

While many players would see this as a signal that they were being buried on the depth chart and marginalized out of contention for playing time, Fisher sensed a wholesale change with the coming in of Lewis and his staff.

“I remember our first team meeting like it was yesterday,” he said. “Before Lewis got into his talk, he stated that he wanted everyone’s attention, which meant to remove all walkmans, earphones, electronic games… and finally, even sunglasses. As I looked around, I was the only one with sunglasses on. I thought, ‘Things are going to change around here.’ But, at the same time, I was excited because I knew that’s what we needed.”

He was mentally prepared for the change and capitalized on it. In doing so, Fisher became one of the best tight ends to play at ECU and, perhaps, the greatest pass-catching tight end to ever don the purple and gold.

He emerged as an impact player almost immediately.

“I could use 10 pages (of paper) to recount my favorite moments,” he said. “Two touchdowns ‘Between the Hedges’ at Georgia, silencing the Seminole Chop with the 91-yarder at Florida State, the two games in Syracuse’s dome, my first touchdown reception which was against Louisiana Tech in my first starting game, the snowy day we almost beat Pitt, the Gamecocks’ stadium (Williams Brice) which was always fun, the brawl at Virginia Tech, Miami… hot!.”

And there were others.

“Playing in front of the hometown at Temple,” he recalled. “And, of course, the Peach Bowl.”

His moments were many and the nation also took note. ESPN even broke into its coverage of a Miami game to show footage of Fisher pulling away from FSU defenders – that’s Florida State – en route to the 91-yarder. More importantly, the ECU-faithful recognized that they had a special player in their midst.

And, Fisher is quick to point out, he was just one of a group of special Pirates.

Photo: ECU SID

Getting only two years at tight end would make most guys think about what could have been had he played all four years in the position. But, it never weighed on Fisher.

“Numbers are only for the record book,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, right?”

The reason, it would seem, was the 1991 team. That team reset the standard at ECU and has created an atmosphere of high expectations and a demanding measurement to live up to them.

It was also the year that the college world was introduced to Logan’s offense in its purest, most perfect form.

“(The offense) was simply complex,” he said. “I always joked with (coach) Logan about it. I used to say he got the idea from Nintendo. It was a very professional type of offense. We had a lot of talent but not exceptional talent. We believed that we could win every game and more importantly, we believed in that system. We started to pull it all together in ’90 and knew ’91 would be a great year.”

History obviously bore out that that team and that offense clicked in a way that no other Pirate team has clicked before. And while the ECU faithful was holding its breath in collective hope after the notorious “Illegal Celebration” – aka, the Illinois Rule – cost the Pirates the 1991 opener 38-31, the players and coaches already sensed what was ahead for the team. And on the offensive side of the ball, the core of talented skill players – Fisher, Jeff Blake, Dion Johnson, Cedric VanBuren, Clayton Driver, Hunter Gallimore, et al – were so in sync, they could probably finish each other’s sentences better than a husband for his wife.

“A lot of it was Jeff and his confidence,” Fisher said. “When you play together for a few years, you start to think alike and start counting on one another. It was nothing to nod to Jeff on a 3rd-and-6 with five minutes left and know it wasn’t a problem picking up the first. I know other guys thought the same way. There were certain plays that each guy knew was their number and time to step up.

“That call (at Illinois) was kind of corny but we had a feeling that we could come back against anybody after that,” he said. “It was a shame, because there was no doubt in my mind that we would have scored. But it was good because it got us motivated.”

While the fans watched the Pirates' subsequent play top that opening performance week after week as they climbed up the national polls, Fisher had his own especially relished games that season.

“Pitt and Virginia Tech,” he said of his favorite games in 1991. “Both games were very close and I had a lot of fun because I played well.”

Though the Pirates consistently pull out win after win en route to the Peach Bowl game against North Carolina State, none of it adequately prepared the Pirates for the last 7½ minutes in Fulton County Stadium — in front of the then-biggest-ever crowd in the bowl game’s history.

Fisher recalls the last part of the game.

The huddle, he said, was “calm, cool, and ‘hurry the hell up!’”

The game-winning pass, “was an option route and Jeff found me on the break.”

Holding the Peach Bowl record (most passes caught with 12) is “kind cool. I hope it is still there when my son gets older.”

It was fitting that Fisher was the guy who ended up laying in the endzone with his arms raised in V, clinching the win over rival State in one of the greatest bowl comebacks in history. He was an athlete who had truly became an incredible tight end. He wanted to make an impact and he left an impression… an enduring one in ECU lore.

His successes on the field as a Pirate translated to a shot with the Minnesota Vikings via the NFL draft (14th pick in 8th round; 210th overall). He was cut in camp. And then he made a run of it in the Canadian Football League. But neither could satisfy like college did. The realities of professional football made it all the easier for Fisher to let go of the dream.

“When I woke up one morning and said, ‘My body aches, it must be rainy outside today,’” he said, “I just wasn’t having fun anymore. In the NFL, it’s such a business and there are politics, like most businesses. I don’t regret any of it. I had a lot of fun and made many friends (in both leagues).”

After the 1991 season, it would be very difficult to recapture the emotions with any other set of players and coaches.

“We were a family,” he said. “Everyone genuinely cared for one another. I watch some of the newer war movies and it reminds me of our team. When the guys (in the war movies) are hanging out in the foxholes telling stories, but at the same time, they knew they could count on one another. That was how it felt on that team.”

Today, the Peach Bowl only comes up once in awhile when he is talking to close friends. He still keeps up with his old teammates, though not as often or as regularly as he might like.

“Every once in awhile (that season's Pirates communicate),” Fisher said. “Jeff (Blake) will relay (hello) to Robert (Jones)… I’ll give Rick Snow, Paul Seng, and Andrew Ward a call now and then. I wish I did (stay in touch better). Once in a blue moon, I will fire off a call to someone that I haven’t spoken to in a long time. I like it that way… it’s always a surprise.”

And when Fisher reconnects, he remembers what he most misses about the game.

“Mostly, the competition,” he said. “I used to love the rush of close games and always wanting to make the last play.”

His love of competition has carried over to his career today.

Fisher is an estimator and sales supervisor for Paul Davis Restoration, a national company based in Florida.

“I interact with a lot of homeowners and insurance companies to complete accurate repair estimates and help cut down on fraud,” he said.

Fisher found his way into the business after deciding to pack up his football aspirations. A good friend pulled him into the business. He moved to Florida where he met his wife, Heather, through a mutual friend, in one of those “almost never was” stories that actually did happen for the two.

“It’s a unique business and that’s why I like it,” Fisher said. “I have flexible hours and enjoy everyone that I work with. I can’t complain.”

His company certainly doesn’t complain as Fisher – who is based out of Florida – is one of the top five producers for the firm out of a 600-plus national sales group. And to link his success to football is not a stretch for Fisher.

“I can compare football with almost anything in life,” he said. “With work, I would say that work ethic is the most important factor. I always strive to be at the top.”

With the hectic work environment, Fisher got the type of news, recently, that automatically reprioritizes life. Fisher and his wife had their first baby – a boy named Dylan. The event, as is usually the case in life, has been awe-inspiring for Fisher.

“It is life changing. I’m stating the obvious,” he said.

Right now, though, Fisher admits that life is somewhat of a whirlwind, especially with the new baby.

“I’m not consumed with work so much (now).”

But he wouldn’t trade a thing for it. And he does find some time for himself now and then.

Luke, Heather & Dylan Fisher
(Submitted Photo)

“You name it, I’ve done it,” he said of his choices in hobbies. “I like anything outdoors. Mostly, the thing I make time for once a year is a hunting trip to Maine with friends and family… it is a family tradition.”

And now with his new boy around, Fisher hopes to add another traditional trip or two the family tradition list.

“I’m excited about raising a future Pirate,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll have more free time to visit ECU.”

It would be a chance to show his boy where dad once wowed the crowd as the tight end by which all others have been measured since 1991.

 

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Jim Gudger
No. 73, D-Line, 1966-1970

Daniel Boone
Ken Burnette
Greg Gardill
Chad Grier
Daren Hart
Shane Hubble
Sean McConnell
Mike Myrick

Norman Quick
Ken Strayhorn
Don Tyson
Zack Valentine
Tabari Wallace
Pat Watkins
George Wheeler
Pete Zophy

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LUKE FISHER BIO BOX
Name (Nickname):

Luke Fisher (Fish)


 

Age:

33
.

Sport:

Football
.

Years at ECU:

1987-92
.

Position/Jersey No.

Tight End / No. 91
.

Hometown:

Medford, NJ
.

Currently Resides:

Jupiter, FL
.

Occupation:
  • Estimator/Supervisor

Degree(s)
  • BS, East Carolina University

.

Marital Status:

Married - Heather
.

Children:
  • Dylan John, 9 wks

Quotable: 

“(The offense was simply complex. I always joked with (coach) Logan about it. I used to say he got the idea from Nintendo…We believed that we could win every game and more importantly, we believed in that system. We started to pull it all together in ’90 and knew ’91 would be a great year.”
.

TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“It’s sad to say but I don’t have one. I’ve found out that I don’t play favorites with anything, spoken like a true diplomat.”
.
.

2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“Friends mostly!  Too many other things to name. The overall friendliness of people is great in Greenville. All of the landmarks.”
.

3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“On the football field, of course.”

 

4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“Scott 111-C, my old roommate, Andrew Ward, would kill me if I went there! We had a lot of good times, everyone in my suite was a lot of fun.”

.

5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“That’s not for me to judge. That’s for the folks that showed up every Saturday.”

.

6. Most disliked opponent?

“Florida State or Miami – They never gave us respect, and we always had terrible refs when we played them. Like they needed the help.”
.

7. Athletic Influences?

“Family, friends, idols and coaches.”
.
.

8. Favorite coach?

“Had to be Jags, we had a great time together. We were much alike.”
.
.

9. Best Locker Room Story

“No comment, insiders only know it for a reason.”
.

10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“I’ve heard they’ve all changed... You’re really testing my memory. One landmark that has remained constant is the Elbo Room and Cubbies. I even talk to people who visited years ago, and they remember them.”
.

 
 

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02/23/2007 02:08:42 PM

 

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