The kicking village: NDSU long snapper Fisher mourns the loss of fellow specialists
FARGO--It's a close-knit group, these college kickers, punters and long snappers. While the students at North Dakota State who belong to Greek houses will be returning to school in a couple of weeks, the PSK fraternity (Punt Snap Kick) will have ...
FARGO-It's a close-knit group, these college kickers, punters and long snappers. While the students at North Dakota State who belong to Greek houses will be returning to school in a couple of weeks, the PSK fraternity (Punt Snap Kick) will have been working the trade all month on the north end of campus.
They often work when nobody is watching. In a typical two-hour Bison practice, they'll be on task for about 10 to 20 minutes. In the offseason, they often do their own thing and in the case of the NDSU specialists, the destination is usually Kohl's Professional Camps based in Waukesha, Wis.
That's where James Fisher's summer took a sudden turn.
It was a Thursday night at a dormitory on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Whitewater, Wis., where Fisher and his roommate, Sam Foltz, were charting on an Microsoft Excel spreadsheet the performance of high school kids they were coaching.
"So the kids would know where they're at," Fisher said.
On Friday, at one of the many kicking camps the Kohl's group puts on, the charts were put into action. Foltz, from the University of Nebraska, was very in-tune with the NDSU kickers. He was friends with former Bison punter Ben LeCompte and knew all about the Bison recruits from the state of Nebraska like quarterback Easton Stick, receiver RJ Urzendowski and linebacker Nick DeLuca.
"He was asking about Easton and RJ and wondering why Nebraska never picked up Nick DeLuca," Fisher said. "He was saying how Nick was such a big name and how well he's done."
On a Saturday night, Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were killed in a one-car accident while driving to a friend's house after camp. On Sunday morning, somewhere around 10:30, the director and founder of Kohl's camps, Jamie Kohl, took Fisher and another coach aside and broke the news of the accident.
Then Kohl, Fisher said, told the entire staff assembled at the camp. Fisher said he didn't know what to think.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know. I just had to sit down and think about it. You hear about it right away and it's like it wasn't real."
LeCompte was on the golf course when he got the news, Fisher said. Fisher was in his car on his way home when the two hooked up by phone to talk it out. LeCompte is currently in the Chicago Bears training camp.
"He knew Sam longer than me from those camps," Fisher said. "We talked about how great of a guy Sam was. And Mike Sadler was one of the funniest people you could ever imagine."
Earlier this week, Fisher was back at it when the Bison players returned for fall camp. There's more to his regimine than hiking a ball through his legs. NDSU head coach Chris Klieman calls him one of the hardest workers on the team and often sees Fisher going through drills on the side with a member of the NDSU strength and conditioning staff.
After snapping the ball, Fisher turns his attention to kick coverage and it's not unique for him to be one of the first players to the ball.
"He takes a lot of pride in his ability to cover on punts," Klieman said.
As a freshman, Fisher, from Bloomington, Minn., was the snapper for all-American placekicker Adam Keller. Last year, he put the ball on the money for LeCompte, an all-American punter. Fisher was a second-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection and followed that with a third team pick to the STATS FCS Preseason All-America team.
"I take it as a big honor, usually long snappers don't get that much recognition," said Fisher, a junior. "Usually it's a very good thing if you don't. I guess hard work really does pay off and I'm just happy to be a part of a team that can be in a big spot like NDSU."
And you can bet Foltz and Sadler won't be far from his memory. Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone, for instance, another member of the PSK fraternity, is wearing Foltz's No. 27 this season.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to to do but it would be great to honor them in some way," Fisher said.