Bowl hero set the bar for ECU tight ends
Sometimes, recruiting the athlete does pay off.
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
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
Wolfpack at the 1991 Peach Bowl. (Photo: ECU SID)
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.
almost never happened, really, had it not been for some hit and miss
attempts by a couple of different coaching staffs.
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.
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).”
Fisher recalls, “It as my first and last (visit).”
his first impressions sold him on ECU, he wasn’t without a small bit of
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
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
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.”
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.
didn’t start out that promising. Art Baker had recruited the New Jersey
quarterback, but really had no real intention of playing him under
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.”
was, Fisher was quickly moved to linebacker, a position he played as a
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.”
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.
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
was prompted by the lack of output from the position in the pass
receiving phase of the game.
‘OK, great. I like catching the ball,’” recalls Fisher. “I thought, ‘You mean I
can even score touchdowns?’”
springtime brought the position change and, as Fisher put it, “I had to
start at the bottom and work my way up.”
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.
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.”
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.
emerged as an impact player almost immediately.
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!.”
there were others.
in front of the hometown at Temple,” he recalled. “And, of course, the
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.
Fisher is quick to point out, he was just one of a group of special
Photo: ECU SID
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.
are only for the record book,” he said. “Things happen for a reason,
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
to live up to them.
also the year that the college world was introduced to Logan’s offense
in its purest, most perfect form.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
recalls the last part of the game.
huddle, he said, was “calm, cool, and ‘hurry the hell up!’”
game-winning pass, “was an option route and Jeff found me on the break.”
the Peach Bowl record (most passes caught with 12) is “kind cool. I hope
it is still there when my son gets older.”
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.
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.
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
the 1991 season, it would be very difficult to recapture the emotions
with any other set of players and coaches.
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.”
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.
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.”
Fisher reconnects, he remembers what he most misses about the game.
the competition,” he said. “I used to love the rush of close games and
always wanting to make the last play.”
of competition has carried over to his career today.
is an estimator and sales supervisor for Paul Davis Restoration, a
national company based in Florida.
interact with a lot of homeowners and insurance companies to complete
accurate repair estimates and help cut down on fraud,” he said.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
life changing. I’m stating the obvious,” he said.
now, though, Fisher admits that life is somewhat of a whirlwind,
especially with the new baby.
consumed with work so much (now).”
wouldn’t trade a thing for it. And he does find some time for himself
now and then.
Luke, Heather &
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.”
with his new boy around, Fisher hopes to add another traditional trip or
two the family tradition list.
excited about raising a future Pirate,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll have
more free time to visit ECU.”
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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