Paddy Fisher remembers it fondly.
Paddy Fisher remembers it well.
The former Katy High all-state linebacker likes to talk about hanging out at his friend’s house, just down the street. Fisher was either in the first or second grade; that much is foggy. But there’s no forgetting flipping through his buddy’s big book of NFL cards and being struck with awe.
“I remember seeing Brian Urlacher in there and Brian Dawkins, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed. All these high-level names,” Fisher said. “I remember flipping through and seeing all these trading cards and the height and the weight and the stats, and I was like, ‘I want to play. I want to be like one of these guys. I want to play in the NFL.’”
To his amazement, many years later, following a storied career at Katy High and impressive run at Northwestern, Fisher, 23, is on the brink of making that dream a reality, hoping to join Andy Dalton, Jorge Diaz, Terrence Frederick, Eric Heitmann and Ryan Mouton as former Tigers to wear an NFL uniform.
“To be here 16, 18 years later, it’s crazy,” Fisher said. “It’s right around the corner.”
Fisher is an NFL prospect. At 6-foot-3-3/8 and 240-pounds, he is the prototypical inside linebacker, a throwback to the days of titans like Urlacher and Lewis.
At Katy, Fisher helped lead the Tigers to an undefeated 2015 state championship and No. 1 national ranking. He totaled 250 tackles, eight sacks and eight forced fumbles in three years on varsity. He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and ultimately signed with Northwestern, where he was an Associated Press All-America third-team selection in 2018 and a Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year honoree and All-Big 10 first-team selection in 2020.
Fisher has been training in Chicago since the season ended, tirelessly working on his craft. He has already met with four teams: Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans and the New York Jets. The NFL Draft is April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.
Fisher was pleased with his performance at Northwestern’s Pro Day on March 9, where he showed off speed, quickness and athletic ability—stuff he says teams may have initially seen as weaknesses in the scouting report—in front of all 32 NFL teams.
He knows he has what it takes to play in the NFL.
“Just my overall instincts and nose for the football,” said Fisher, who totaled 404 tackles, 24.5 for loss, four interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, 14 passes defensed and two sacks in four years at Northwestern. “My ability to find the ball and be in the right position to make plays. That’s important at the next level, and I have that instinct and football IQ to know what’s going on in front of me and behind me, and to understand defense and offense and make plays.”
Fisher recently spoke with The Katy Times about his time in Katy and the effect being a Tiger had.
Q: When you were growing up in Katy, was football always a part of your life?
A: “Geez, I can’t remember when it wasn’t. I feel like I was just born into it, watching my older brothers play and my dad played. It was just part of the family. It was what we did. I felt like I was brought into that world from a very young age, and I haven’t looked back since. I love it.”
Q: What was it about playing linebacker that you really embraced?
A: “Good question. I’d been playing it my whole life, and I had coaches who saw what I couldn’t really see. They just saw I was a linebacker from heart. I fell into it. I learned to love and accept it. It’s one of the hardest positions, being the quarterback of the defense. We have to stop the run and defend the pass. It’s something I fell in love with because it’s a leadership position. It’s hard-nosed, it’s technical and it’s also very strategic. I have great abilities and great coaches that have helped me along this way, but I think the best part that I’ve loved is just being a leader.”
Q: You won a 2015 state championship on a Katy team that was just voted one of the 10 greatest in Texas high school football history. What do you remember about that team and how special, especially, that defense was?
A: “I remember everybody was bought in. Everyone was just so invested on getting back to the state championship and winning. The two years prior, we lost to Cedar Hill, and we made it very, very evident that we were going to go back and win. It started in the offseason, a certain attitude that you could feel in the air and in the walls of the building that we were going to go, and we were going to win. That was months and months before the actual championship game in December.”
Q: Coach (Gary) Joseph always talks about how that team was player-led, with a great group of senior leaders. What do you remember about leading a team to an undefeated state title and finishing No. 1 in the nation?
A: “Coach Joseph hit it right on the nose. It was player-led. The coaches didn’t really have to get on anybody or discipline anybody. The standard was set from the players. That was another piece that made it so special. We just had great leaders in leadership positions that were extremely invested, and everybody bought in. The coaches never had to intervene.”
Q: What translates from what you learned and experienced playing Katy High School football to the next level and even beyond?
A: “Specifically, I got to college and I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve been doing this for the last three years.’ It wasn’t a tough transition. There were definitely some things I had to transition through and had to pick up and learn along the way, but I look back on my time at Katy and, football-speaking, things I carry with me are how to play the game from a technical standpoint and from a strategic standpoint, game-planning. The (Katy) coaches work their tails off and they operate like it’s a college program. That translates, because college programs try to emulate NFL organizations. Off the field, I learned and grew so much, like how to overcome adversity, how to hold myself with high character and to a high standard. I learned how to fail, and how to hold success and keep the success going. One of my biggest memories is persevering through hardships. Those offseasons at Katy in the mat room and running on the track are not easy. You learn all the things you have to learn in college, and me and my teammates were fortunate to learn those things at a very young age while we were in high school.”
Q: Do you have a favorite memory that stands out at Katy?
A: “It’s got to be the state championship we won our senior year. We lost our sophomore and junior years. Freshman year when we won, I was moved up for the playoffs to help on the scout team for six weeks, so I don’t really count that for me. But losing our sophomore and junior years, and going back and winning our senior year, it was the pinnacle of my career there. To see us overcome so much adversity, I think that meant the most.”
Q: What’s the plan for you over the next month until the draft?
A: “It’s training. Training, training, training. This is also the time when we’ll meet with teams. We’ll set up Zoom calls, talking football. Other than that, it’s staying in shape and getting my mind right.”