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Air Force helps B. Fischer remain grounded

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  • Air Force helps B. Fischer remain grounded

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Because he had no athletic scholarship offers in hand and little money in the bank, Bryce Fisher applied for the Air Force Academy in 1995. At the time, the NFL wasn't even a whim.

    "I went to the Academy with the intent of getting to play Division I football in college, because that was my dream," Fisher said. "And to become an officer in the Air Force."

    He realized both goals. Fisher, a star student as well as an all-metro football player at Seattle Prep High, was a two-year starter at Air Force, where he was named the Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year as a senior. He graduated as a second lieutenant; today, he's a captain in the Missouri Air National Guard.

    But a funny thing happened along the way: Fisher developed into an NFL prospect, and the Buffalo Bills drafted him in the seventh round in 1999. The Rams signed him as a free agent just before the start of the 2002 season.

    At Air Force, "I grew 2 inches, I got in better shape, and I played for a guy, Jappy Oliver, who really taught me the game," Fisher said. Oliver, the Falcons' defensive line coach, "taught me about hand placement, footwork, what teams do in certain formations," Fisher said. "He said, 'If you do this, this and this, you'll be successful at this level.' And it just worked out."

    Before he joined the Bills, Fisher served two years of active duty, first as a coach and recruiter at the Academy, then as a transportation officer at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. Fisher has nine years remaining on his reserve commitment: He reports on Tuesdays to his "second job" - he's a public-affairs officer at the National Guard facility at Lambert Field.

    He said he learned to value discipline in his time at the Academy "It was kind of tough (at first), because every 16-year-old thinks that he's got the world licked," Fisher said. "It was good for me. And I made friends that I'm close with to this day, guys I consider like my family."

    Fisher, 27, is in his first season as the Rams' starting right defensive end. Grant Wistrom held that spot for five years before accepting a lucrative free-agent offer from Seattle in the offseason.

    Wistrom was well-liked and highly regarded, and Fisher knew that comparisons were inevitable. Fisher said defensive line coach Bill Kollar "put it out there at the beginning of the year. He said, 'Bryce, Grant's gone, and there's nothing we can do about it. We're going to find out whether you're good enough to be a starter.'"

    Coach Mike Martz said Fisher has passed that test. "That comparison (with Wistrom) is always going to happen, but he's worked past that," Martz said. "He's making his own statement. He's had a good season."

    Statistically, Fisher and Wistrom have performed about equally. Fisher is averaging 4.3 tackles; Limited to nine games because of injuries, Wistrom is at 4.1. Fisher has 5 1/2 sacks - just a half behind team leader Leonard Little. Wistrom has 3 1/2 sacks.

    Fisher, 6 feet 3 and 272 pounds, gave himself a mixed review. "There's a lot of stuff that I could have improved on this year," he said. "I think last year I made more big plays. But I probably played a little bit more consistent this year. I'm probably rushing the passer a little bit better this year, but I'm not quite playing the run as well as I did last year."

    Martz noted that first-year starters often find it difficult to adjust to the increased workload. "Guys who haven't played a 16-game schedule, and they're in the trenches, they don't understand how physically demanding it is and how hard it is to stay up throughout the entire season and play at that level," Martz said. "He's learned that. He's improved a great deal throughout the season."

    Fisher acknowledged that he's "a whole lot more tired, a lot more drained on Monday and Tuesday. It's been a big difference for me."

    Coping with the less-than-satisfying play of the defense as a whole under first-year coordinator Larry Marmie has been a challenge, too, Fisher said. Under Lovie Smith, the Rams ranked 16th in the 32-team NFL in total defense in 2003; after 14 games this year, they're 24th.

    "The only new starters this year were myself and (tackle) Damione Lewis, really," Fisher said. "Everybody else was back from last year, so we really expected to play better defense."

    But Fisher's military experience allows him to apply perspective to such issues. "It's been a changing experience for me, as far as how I set up my priorities in life," he said "And in the grand scheme of things, what we do on the football field just is inconsequential when you compare them to some of the things our service men and women are doing."

  • #2
    Re: Air Force helps B. Fischer remain grounded

    It always makes me proud when a player makes the pros from one of our service academies. Because of their military experience they understand the meaning of teamwork and are much more grounded in their personalities and ego. It takes real dedication and commitment for these guys to balance their professional careers with their military service. I really wish players like this continued success and am proud and honored to salute them.



    • #3
      Re: Air Force helps B. Fischer remain grounded

      He seems like a good addition to the line up. I think he has been improving as the season progresess. I wish the rest of the D would take note and do the same.

      Adm. William "Bull" Halsey


      Related Topics


      • RamWraith
        A Different Kind of Captain
        by RamWraith
        Thursday, February 17, 2005

        By Nick Wagoner
        Staff Writer

        As Bryce Fisher stands before a group of high school students speaking about what it takes to set and reach goals and flashing that megawatt smile, he appears to be completely at ease. This is only surprising because his other job requires the intensity of a madman.

        Fisher has spent the better part of the past three offseasons doing what he is doing on this day in front of about 30 students and faculty at Francis Howell Central. Fisher is one of the only players in the NFL to hold two jobs, one as a football player and the other as a captain in the Missouri Air National Guard.

        Making the adjustment from football, where he is one of the more quiet players on the Rams to speaking in front of large groups is sometimes stressful for Fisher, but it is always worth it for both he and the students.

        “I have a great time,” Fisher said. “The first couple of schools that I speak to I am really nervous because I haven’t done my speech enough times so I kind of sputter through it. Towards the end of the week as I am doing it more and more, it starts to get a lot more fun because I know what I want to say and I can make a connection with the students.”

        Each offseason, Fisher, who graduated from the Air Force Academy, spends two weeks on duty with the Missouri Air National Guard. He spends one of those weeks at the Lambert Field base and the other going around and speaking to students about his life in football and in the military.

        Joining Fisher on these trips is Tech Sgt. Stacy Durbin, who has been helping Fisher locate and commit to speaking engagements for two of the three years Fisher has done it.

        Durbin works as a recruiter for the Air Force and helps find speaking engagements for Fisher in addition to her normal duties. She said having Fisher around is a major advantage in general, but especially in the recruiting aspect.

        “I think it helps us out a lot,” Durbin said. “With Air Guard, there is not a lot of us but when we do get out there and we’ve got him, kids kind of take a bit more notice. After I come out and talk to the students and I go back into the schools after he is gone, they can kind of put my face with his. I think it does help us get a little bit more as far as the recruiting environment. Having him in our unit helps us out a bunch.”

        Those speeches help Durbin’s recruiting, but make no mistake, they are also beneficial to the kids on the other end of the speech.

        As Fisher’s career has blossomed, so too, has his speaking ability. The words change every season, but the message is always the same.

        “I get tired of saying kind of the same things, but really it’s always the same general message,” Fisher said. “I usually sit down and I write out what I want to say. I really try to focus on two or three things...
        -02-18-2005, 05:46 AM
      • RamDez
        A moment with ... Bryce Fisher, Rams defensive end
        by RamDez
        A moment with ... Bryce Fisher, Rams defensive end


        Bryce Fisher has taken an unorthodox path to becoming a starter in the NFL. Some players aren't recruited out of high school, as was the case with Fisher at Seattle Prep. Some players have to wait their turn until another player leaves the team, as was the case with Fisher while playing behind Grant Wistrom the past two seasons. But few players put their NFL career on hold for two years after coming out of college, as Fisher did after being a seventh-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills in 1999 so he could fulfill his military commitment after graduating from the Air Force Academy. The Renton-born Fisher took a few minutes this week to discuss his unusual path and past, as well as tomorrow's "homecoming" game against the Seahawks at Qwest Field.

        Q: You've come at this in a different way, has it worked out?

        A: "Yeah, it's worked out well. I started two years active duty out of the Academy. Now I've got my fourth year in the league. I can't complain one bit."

        Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard Wistrom had signed with the Seahawks in March?

        "I was happy for Grant, getting to move on. Plus, he gets to live in God's country now. You can't beat it, as far as I'm concerned. So I was happy for him. The guy works his butt off, and you guys are seeing the kind of player he is. Even though the last couple of years he hasn't been the 12- or 13-sack guy, he's good for 80-plus tackles, he's going to play hard, he's going to be a good leader. He deserves everything he got."

        Q: Is there still anything special about playing at home, even though you've been here the past two seasons?

        "It was cool the first couple times, getting to come home. But it's just like any other road game. I've just got to go out there and play hard and do all the things we need to do so we can win this week. It will be a good chance for me to see my family on Saturday night and get to hang out with them. Since I graduated from high school, I haven't had a whole lot of opportunity to be home in Seattle. My mom, my dad, both my brothers will be at the game. Everybody in my family is there."

        Q: The players' day off in the NFL is Tuesday, how do you spend yours?

        "I'm in the reserves. So Tuesdays during the season I go in and do my duty, because normally you're required to do one weekend a month. Instead, I do four Tuesday afternoons to make up for the weekend that I miss. It's a pretty good opportunity for me to get to play on Sunday and then get do a little service on Tuesday."

        -- Clare Farnsworth
        -10-10-2004, 01:10 AM
      • RamDez
        Fisher is holding up his end well
        by RamDez
        Fisher is holding up his end well
        By Jim Thomas
        Of the Post-Dispatch

        A half-dozen Rams players either grew up in the Seattle area, or once played for the Seahawks. So the fact that Sunday's game marks a homecoming for Renton, Wash., native Bryce Fisher is interesting but not unusual.

        No, what sets Fisher's return apart from some of his teammates is that the fellow he's trying to replace for the Rams, defensive end Grant Wistrom, is now one of the Seahawks' marquee players.

        Much was written about Wistrom facing his former team, particularly in the Seattle-area newspapers in the days leading up to the game. But Fisher says he feels no pressure trying to fill Wistrom's shoes Sunday for the Rams.

        "Pressure only comes when you feel like you're not prepared," Fisher said. "Grant can have all the publicity as long as we get the win. ... He was No. 6 overall (in the draft), and I was No. 248. When you're the 248th pick in the draft, nobody expects you to play well."

        So far this season, Fisher is holding his own at right defensive end, the position manned by Wistrom for the previous five seasons in St. Louis. In fact, Fisher's statistics are very comparable to Wistrom's, although Seattle has played only three games so far to the Rams' four.

        Wistrom, who signed a six-year, $33 million free-agent contract with Seattle in March, has 10 solo tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and two pass breakups for the Seahawks.

        Fisher, who signed a one-year, $628,000 contract last spring as a restricted free agent, has 12 solo tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and three breakups.

        "I'm doing OK," Fisher said. "There's some good things and some bad things. I didn't do as well against Atlanta and New Orleans - and go figure - we lost those games. I did a little bit better against Arizona and San Francisco. I need to continue to work at getting better and being productive for 45-50 snaps. Rather than last year playing 15-20 snaps."

        Fisher has a tough matchup Sunday in Seattle's Pro Bowl left tackle, Walter Jones.

        "I've played against him three or four times," Fisher said. "He blocked me pretty good the last few years. He's as good as there is. The good thing is I practice against a guy who is the best in the league."

        That, of course, was a reference to Orlando Pace. Jones is a couple of inches shorter and about 10 pounds lighter than Pace, but has great balance and recognition skills.

        "The game, you can tell, comes easy to him," Fisher said.

        Fisher is expecting about 15-20 friends and relatives in the stands Sunday at Qwest Field. His mother is cooking red beans and rice, with potato salad and hot cucumber salad for Rams defensive linemen to munch on during the flight back to St. Louis.

        Martz is rooting
        -10-10-2004, 01:14 AM
      • RamDez
        Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom
        by RamDez
        Fisher has lead in battle to replace Wistrom
        By Jim Thomas
        Of the Post-Dispatch
        Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

        Grant Wistrom was a five-year starter for the Rams at right defensive end. A
        hustler. A hard-nosed player. And later in his tenure in St. Louis, a locker
        room leader. But whatever mourning period there was following his free-agent
        departure to Seattle has long since passed.

        "That's the way it works," defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "No one's
        sitting around saying, 'Oh, Grant's gone.' He was a great player. Great locker
        room guy. Great friend. But he's on the wrong side of the ball now."

        As for replacements, Jackson says, "We've got some guys. People may not know
        who they are, but we've got some guys."

        At the moment, Bryce Fisher and Erik Flowers are the top two ends on the right
        side. Both were washouts in Buffalo - the team that originally drafted them -
        but both appear intent on making the most of the opportunity in St. Louis.

        Talented but raw rookie Anthony Hargrove eventually could work himself back
        into the picture at right end. But for now, the team has been looking at him at
        defensive tackle.

        For all of his contributions in St. Louis, Wistrom was never an elite pass
        rusher. He had superior speed and effort, but not much in the way of moves.
        Fisher and Flowers have the potential - repeat, potential - to be at least as
        productive. They combined for three sacks in the preseason opener against
        Chicago - one by Fisher and two by Flowers off the bench.

        "Bryce has got real good instincts," defensive line coach Bill Kollar said. "He
        plays with pretty good strength most of the time; plays with leverage so he's
        able to end up hanging in there against the bigger players."

        Fisher isn't as fast as Wistrom but has a good short burst. And like Wistrom,
        effort has never been a problem.

        "That's how I made it into the league," Fisher said. "And that's how I plan on
        staying in the league, just by being that guy that keeps on hustling."

        Claimed off waivers from Buffalo just before the start of the '02 season,
        Fisher appeared in only four games for the Rams that year. But he talked his
        way onto special teams last season, including coverage units - which aren't
        normally the domain of defensive linemen. That got Fisher on the field on game
        day, and eventually got him in the defensive line rotation. He finished with 47
        tackles and three sacks.

        "Last year, I was really focusing on being the very best special teams player I
        could, and then trying to get as many reps on defense as I could," Fisher said.
        "It kind of worked out where...
        -08-21-2004, 10:57 AM
      • the brent
        Bryce Fisher
        by the brent
        ...looked pretty good for the Seahawks (only game I could get up here). I wish we could have kept him, an Air Force product you know.
        -08-15-2005, 01:52 PM