Fishers savoring final football season
Gresham native and Centennial High School alum Drew Fisher has become a reliable player on the Linfield Wildcats' defense over his four years
The Fisher family is reliable.
It's why Rob and Janelle Fisher are easy to find during Linfield College's home football games. Two hours before kickoff, Rob and Janelle will be the first fans into Maxwell Stadium. They'll spend some time chatting with fellow parents of Wildcat players. They'll talk about the high school games from Friday night, before eventually retreating to the stands.
The stadium consists of the prominent grand stands, but Rob can't stand there throughout the game. Instead, he and Janelle sit in the aluminum bleachers parallel to the south end zone. They will always be positioned to the far right of the last row. Here Rob doesn't block anyone's vision as he stands and sits with the countless swings of the game.
This is routine for every game.
On the field, their son, Drew, is just as predictable. He can always be found around the action, chasing down opposing ball carriers. When one-on-one in the open field, the smart money is on Drew to make the tackle. In the locker room, good luck finding him tense. His light-hearted personality keeps his teammates loose.
As the Wildcats' starting safety, Drew's impressive play has made his stats and accolades somewhat predictable. He has been amongst Linfield's leading tacklers during his four seasons - he led the Wildcats as a sophomore (73), as well as so far this season (66). Last season he tied for the team-lead in interceptions (5) and is leading the Wildcats this year, as well (5).
He is a two-time Division-Three All-American and two-time all-Northwest Conference selection at defensive back - and he's well on his way to earning each of those awards for a third time.
His performance over the course of four seasons has made him one of Linfield's most reliable defensive players. And when it comes to reliability, Drew is at the right school - Linfield's football team holds the longest streak of winning seasons at all levels of the NCAA with 57.
The Fishers have always ensured that athletics is a family affair. And this year, maintaining that seems even more important.
This is Drew's senior year. For 15 years, watching Drew play football has been a natural process for his parents and even his grandparents. But with an end to this adventure near, the moments are enjoyed a little differently.
'I'm trying to take it all in,' says Rob, who is wearing his usual red Linfield hat and white polo shirt with the Wildcats' logo before his team faces Pacific Lutheran. 'It's going to be different when next fall comes around, and it's all over.'
'It's just a dream for him,' Drew says. 'Living the dream, almost more than I am, probably.'
Being able to see every game was one reason Drew's family was excited that he chose to attend Linfield College. Linfield is located in McMinnville, about an hour and a half southeast of Gresham, where Drew is from and where his family lives.
Drew began terrorizing opponents in youth leagues before attending Centennial High School. At Centennial, in addition to playing defensive back, Drew was a wide receiver. But he knew defense was where he wanted to be.
'I love playing defense,' he says. 'I love hitting people. It's just a different mindset (on defense). You can't play with too many emotions on offense. You have to be composed. But on defense, you let it all out.'
When it came time to choose a college, the solidarity between Drew and his coaches, as well, made the decision to attend Linfield easy. All of his baseball and football coaches at Centennial were Wildcat alums, and they were his role models during high school.
'I see what kind of people they are and what they've done,' Drew says. 'They all sat me down and talked to me and said, 'it's going to be a good place if you want to play sports.' '
In addition, his mom went to Linfield for nursing, and Drew was aware of the school's academic reputation. Plus he could play baseball.
Close to home, the Fishers could easily make the drive to see Drew play. But no matter the distance, Rob travels to every game, home or away.
His perfect attendance has allowed Rob and his family to see Drew evolve over his four years - a luxury many parents miss out on when their child attends college.
As a freshman, Drew's impact at Linfield was immediate. Of Linfield's nine games in 2008, Drew played in seven and started five. Learning from an elite linebacking core, Drew acclimated quickly to the college game and was awarded the Wildcats' rookie of the year.
Over the next couple of years, Drew continued to be a protégé on defense, watching and learning from seniors and readying himself for his senior season. He slowly inserted himself into a leadership role, while becoming an increasingly integral part of the defense. The whole time, he was experiencing how winning often was the standard at Linfield. Between 2008 and 2010, Linfield went 27-6.
This season has been as impressive as previous ones during Drew's four-year career. It went through the regular season undefeated, and for a third straight year the Wildcats were perfect against conference opponents.
Now in his senior senior, Drew is implementing his years of tutorage. He, along with Linfield's defensive back core, are anchoring the Wildcats' defense. Play calls have gone through Drew as he has orchestrated a defense that has only allowed 11.7 points and 285.3 total yards of offense per game.
'Myself, as well as a few other of the senior defensive backs, got to step up the leadership role,' Drew said following a 73-7 victory over Puget Sound on Oct. 8. 'That's what we've brought on ourselves, to do that for the whole defense and for the team too. Those are not really statistical goals but something that we have to work on every day.'
Linfield's defense has one specific goal for each game: less than 10. They want to allow less than 10 points every game, and of their 10 games this year, they've done that five times.
That kind of pressure has prepared Linfield for the postseason. Last Saturday they edged out a 30-27 win over Cal Lutheran in the first round of the NCAA D-III playoffs. This Saturday, they'll travel to Dover, Del., to face Wesley College.
Linfield's season is almost over, and since it's the playoffs, Drew approaches each game with the knowledge it could be his last. It's a thought that's probably as hard on his family as it is on Drew.
'I'm kind of worried about that, for myself,' Rob says.
For Drew, he's been close with the seniors from previous teams and has seen what the moment is like.
'I've thought about it, and it's going to be a tough time because I love football,' Drew says. 'I'm close friends with all the past seniors, and I've seen all of their emotions and how it's pretty bitter-sweet. I'm just jealous I'm not going to get to do it anymore.'
As the games wind down, their importance grows. And Rob says that Drew only gets better when the games get bigger.
No question Rob will be in Delaware this Saturday for Linfield's second-round playoff game. And he'll be watching Drew, as he leads the defense in his familiar way.
The Fishers are certainly reliable.