DSU cornerback Mike Fisher has grown into a stabilizing presence in secondaryMike Fisher was a high-risk, high-reward player when he first stepped onto a football field for Dickinson State.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Mike Fisher was a high-risk, high-reward player when he first stepped onto a football field for Dickinson State.
The defensive back was about as likely to get burned over the top for a touchdown as he was to make a game-changing tackle or get a pass breakup his true freshman season.
What a difference four years can make.
Today, as a senior, Fisher has DSU’s secondary and the Frontier Conference-leading pass defense under control.
“I’ve definitely learned a whole hell of a lot,” Fisher said with a laugh.
The hard-hitting 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back from Ronan, Mont., saw the field in 2009 as a true freshman but spent most of his time on special teams and in nickel and dime packages.
As a nickelback on the impressive 2010 team that won the Dakota Athletic Conference title, Fisher made 41 tackles and had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown. Last season, he moved to cornerback and had 43 tackles and two interceptions.
“He’s grown, he’s done a good job,” DSU defensive coordinator Arlan Hofland said. “He’s gotten better consistently as time went by. He’s where you want to see your seniors be now.”
Fisher said the change from safety to cornerback wasn’t all that challenging, though it took him time to get used to the idiosyncrasies of the position.
“The biggest thing to get used to was outside in, instead of inside out,” he said. “At safety, you’re so used to flying up. At corner, you’ve got to be a little more protective of that outside edge.”
Hofland said Fisher took to the seemingly more difficult cornerback spot — where he had to learn to play more coverage and tackle less — better than he ever expected.
“Some guys are better corners, some guys are better safeties,” Hofland said. “Sometimes it takes coaches who aren’t very smart a couple years to figure out where they go. He’s probably better suited at corner, but he has some of the talents, some of the things you look for in a safety.”
In a nutshell, Fisher’s flexibility is what has made him so valuable to the Blue Hawks over the years.
More so than anything now, however, it’s his leadership.
“He’s a big leader for our team. He’s an emotional leader,” DSU senior safety Nolan Schwartz said. “The DBs, we look up to him. We listen to him. He definitely holds down that corner spot right now. He’s really playing good football right now.”
Through three games, Fisher has 16 tackles, three pass break-ups and hasn’t given up a long pass. His only seemingly big mistake — a questionable pass interference call on a last-second Hail Mary throw in a 21-20 victory against Montana State-Northern last Saturday — never did any damage and perhaps even prevented a catch inside the 10-yard line.
“I try to lead by example,” Fisher said. “I try to go out there every game and go as hard as I can and make sure that I do the things right. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. There’s a saying, ‘You preach what you pray.’ So that’s what I try and do and hopefully guys look up to me.”
Today, he leads DSU’s defense against perhaps its most challenging game yet: a showdown in Ashland, Ore., against another Frontier newcomer, Southern Oregon, who just happens to have the No. 1-ranked passing offense in the NAIA.
Fisher said he has confidence that DSU’s defense can hang on to its ranking as the top pass defense in the Frontier Conference by limiting the Raiders, who are averaging 373 yards passing per game.
“It’s all about meshing together and I really think we’re starting to do that,” Fisher said. “To look back on the last three games and say that we hold that statistic, the No. 1 spot, we take a lot of pride in that. Coming into a game like that, it’s like we’re keeping that confidence level and going in there trying to stay up there, stay on top.”