2021 NFL Draft

Katy’s Fisher staying positive through tough road to NFL

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 4/1/21

Paddy Fisher is generally a positive, upbeat person. He is a magnetic presence with an endearing personality and infectious smile.

But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker is going through the most …

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2021 NFL Draft

Katy’s Fisher staying positive through tough road to NFL

Posted

(This is the second of a three-part series on former Katy High star Paddy Fisher. Fisher is a middle linebacker out of Northwestern preparing for the NFL Draft. Part one can be read here.)

Paddy Fisher is generally a positive, upbeat person. He is a magnetic presence with an endearing personality and infectious smile.

But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker is going through the most uncertain period of his life these days, transitioning from starring, highly acclaimed roles at Katy High and Northwestern to preparing exhaustively for the NFL Draft April 29-May 1.

It is not the easiest of times.

“It’s tough. I won’t lie,” Fisher said. “It’s fun and exciting at the same time, but it’s also … you don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a ton of uncertainty. You get this pull from the unknown and what’s going to happen, and then you get this pull from the excitement. Growing up, you dream of this. Playing at the highest stage has been a goal of mine for quite some time.”

For support, Fisher has leaned on his family, close friends, and agent Barry Gardner, an eight-year NFL veteran who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and New England Patriots who now runs his own sports firm, BeGreat Sports.

“He’s taken the (pre-draft) tests and knows what to do and how to do it and the ways to do it,” Fisher said. “I picked him for a reason. He’s reassured me to have fun, enjoy it all, do everything you absolutely can, control what you can control and he’s going to take care of the rest. He has the answers to the test. All I have to do is play ball, work my hardest and everything will play its course.”

Playing ball is the easiest part for Fisher. He was a three-year letterman and 2015 state champion at Katy, where he was a three-star recruit and compiled 350 total tackles, eight sacks and eight forced fumbles. He signed with Northwestern, where he redshirted in 2016 before leading all first year FBS players with 113 total tackles (65 solo) in 2017 with four forced fumbles as a second-team All-Big 10 selection in 2017.

Fisher’s status grew in 2018, when he recorded 116 tackles and four forced fumbles and was an Associated Press All-America third team and All-Big 10 first-team selection. In his first two seasons, he had 14 tackles for a loss.

PROVING HIMSELF

But 2019 proved challenging for Fisher and the Wildcats. After winning 19 games combined the previous two seasons, Northwestern went 3-9, 1-8 in the Big 10. Fisher had 89 total tackles.

“It was tough,” Fisher said. “We addressed a lot of things in the offseason, and the biggest one was accountability. Holding each other accountable during workouts. What we did was put guys who weren’t really exposed to leadership positions in uncomfortable positions. We made sure everyone found comfort in being uncomfortable. Making sure we were doing the right thing. Everything was really team-oriented and competition-based. We would do workouts and runs and drills, and they were all team-structured and accountability-based.”

Fisher had initially planned to leave Northwestern for the draft after the 2019 season. But his and the team’s performances forced him to reconsider.

“I knew I had the opportunity to come out, but quite honestly, I wasn’t happy with what I put on film,” Fisher said. “I don’t even think I talked to (Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald) Fitz or my position coach, Coach (Tim) McGarigle. It was me sitting with what I’d put on tape and I just wasn’t at ease with it. I did not like it one bit.”

Fisher returned to Northwestern for another year, and redemption was earned on behalf of both parties. The Wildcats finished 7-2, 6-2 in the Big-10. Fisher had 86 total tackles, one interception and one forced fumble in the abbreviated nine-game season and was named the Big 10 Conference’s Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year, joining former honorees like Jabrill Peppers (Michigan), Devin Bush (Michigan) and Micah Parsons (Penn State). Fisher also found himself back on the All-Big 10 first team.

“In 2020, I was more physical at the point of attack than the year prior,” he said. “I did a much better job finishing tackles than I did in 2019 and showed I can cover in man and zone coverages. I put some really good things on tape in 2020 that I did not do as well in 2019.”

Fisher has been training in Chicago the last three months. He has met with four teams: Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans and the New York Jets. Teams that are interested see Fisher as a middle linebacker and he has the smarts and physicality to be a strong special teams performer.

NFL analysts have Fisher projected as a sixth-round selection. His strengths are his intelligence, physical nature, and sound tackling skills. Fisher has a nose for the ball and can snuff out ballcarriers quickly in the run game. He flies around the field and his instincts are exceptional.

Doubts, however, center around his athleticism, and pass coverage and ball skills.

Fisher said he doesn’t pay attention to the media, good or bad, calling it “a slippery slope.”

“I’m very critical of myself. I watch the tape. I know my strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “It’s not a hidden story. In the pass game, it’s taking growth about what’s going on behind us, understanding what’s going on in front of us in terms of route concepts and down-and-distance and situational and spatial awareness. That’s the film study side of it. The physical side of it is, for me, understanding my body. I have lower body weaknesses, what they would call hip tightness, but, in my opinion, it’s just a lack of comfortability being in open space.”

At Northwestern’s Pro Day on March 9, Fisher said he was pleased to show off speed, quickness and athletic ability in front of all 32 NFL teams in attendance. His training has emphasized working fast-twitch muscles and implementing a regimen that puts his legs in uncomfortable positions so that he is more fluid in space.

HOLDING ON

Fisher said it’s human nature to have a fear of uncertainty settle in, when his future as a professional is at stake. But, as is his way, he has dug through the dirt of doubt and found positives to keep him going.

“It’s a constant reminder that I’ve gotten this far and there’s got to be something that comes out of this, whether I make it or not,” Fisher said. “To be here, to be healthy, to have great people in my corner, and to have the opportunity. I may not be a highly slotted guy in the draft, but at least I’m going to get an opportunity. That in itself is something I’ve been holding on to and gripping tightly whenever that fear settles in.”

Always choosing optimism over pessimism. Fisher is fundamentally the same person now that he was growing up in Katy, hungry to make the most of any opportunity, on or off the field.

“My time at Northwestern really opened me up to a lot of different people,” Fisher said. “Personality-wise, I’m still the same guy: humble, hard-working, ambitious. The biggest change came from a mental standpoint in terms of really seeing and knowing and understanding that there’s so much out there other than Katy, Texas. It’s really a beautiful thing, going to school with people from all over the country with similar like-minded goals. So, I’m going to be OK. I know the work I’ve put in; I know the work I’ve done. I’m just super pumped and happy to be able to be in this position.”

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