Jake Fischer did not know it then, but Arizona’s 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl would be his final football game. Fischer knew making an NFL roster was unlikely, but he did not know he would not even get a chance.
Today, the former Ironwood Ridge standout is at peace and has moved on to another chapter of his life.
Fischer graduated from the University of Arizona in May and immediately began work as a financial planner for Primerica in Tucson. He is completing his licensing, he has his life license, is working on his securities license and is now working hard at building his business. Working in an office with former athletes, including former Wildcat linebacker Paul Vassallo, has helped the transition as all of the people in the office are very competitive.
“We have competitive people here, so we have kind of formed a team,” Fischer said. “We still need something to keep us going. It is not like we are going to stop being competitive. If you are at all competitive, you need something to feed that desire.”
Fisher wanted to keep playing, but had to go another route. Although he misses the game, he has few regrets.
“It was a weird transition period but I found something that I can do for the long haul,” Fischer said. “It is nice I fell into something I loved. Some people have an elongated transition period after college, but I am fortunate that I discovered something that I love.”
Despite leading the Wildcats in tackles, Fischer knew a career in the NFL would be a long shot. He was listed at 6-0, 220 on the Arizona roster, but was likely shorter and a tad lighter. The average NFL linebacker is 6-2 and 247-pounds, with the shortest being 5-10 and the lightest being 230 pounds. Add to the fact that Fischer is not known for his world class speed and you could see why he had an uphill climb.
“I did not put up the numbers that I needed to for teams to take a look at a player my size,” Fischer admitted.
Although his measurables did not help him, teams were still interested, but a history of injuries is what prevented him from getting signed as a rookie free agent.
“They looked at my medical records,” admitted Fischer. “There were some teams that were really serious about giving me a shot, but I had another surgery after the Boston College game, so they wanted to see if it was completely healed, which it was, but there is not as much cartilage (in my knee) as there should be. The medical history along with the size kind of diverted anyone from giving me a shot.”
Fischer had four surgeries during his time at Arizona, and probably should have had a fifth on a shoulder injury he suffered midway through his junior season. He also had a few injuries during high school. Save for his ACL tear at Arizona, Fischer missed next to no time with his ailments, but the amount of wear and tear he took, especially considering his size, spelled an end to his playing career.
Fischer had a standout career at Ironwood Ridge, helping to lead the Nighthawks to the state quarterfinals and semifinals in his last two seasons. For his efforts he was named second team all-state and 5A Southern II Defensive MVP by the coaches. He was rated as a three-star recruit by most recruiting services, and committed early in his senior year to Arizona, picking the Wildcats over Colorado and Utah among many others. The knock on Fischer then, was the same it was at the end of his collegiate career, height and speed.
Arizona coaches were not as concerned. They saw a player who loved the game and made plays. As a true freshman he played in all 13 games, becoming a special teams standout. The next year he started nine of 13 games and earned Pac-10 First Team All-Academic honors.
Things looked bright for Fischer, he was poised to be a starter on a team that had just been to three straight bowls, two of which he played in. That spring he tore his ACL. He worked hard and debated whether to comeback mid-year, but the team was struggling, Stoops was fired and he chose to use a redshirt year and hope for better things with a new coach.
Rich Rodriguez was that new coach and he and Fischer clicked from the start. Rodriguez coveted players who worked hard and loved the game and Fischer fit that to a tee. Rodriguez preached “Hard Edge” and “OKG’s” (Our Kinda Guys) and few players fit that description like Fischer.
He also impressed Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel with his smarts and leadership.
“Jake has been a guy who has been the heartbeat of making calls, getting people lined up, and being a leader out there defensively, especially in the front six,” Casteel explained. “Anytime that you lose a kid that has played as much football as Jake has, that’s tough to replace.”
Although Arizona’s defense struggled the past two seasons, the team succeeded, going to, and winning, a pair of bowl games. Fischer left Arizona with numerous honors, including more academic awards and he finished 19th in school history in tackles.
He finished his career with the win in the bowl game
“That last game going out on top basically sums up the hard work that my teammates and I put into it,” Fischer said. “To see that way our senior class left it, on a high note, shutting down the second best running back in the nation, it left things on a high note.”
Fischer had 14 tackles and a quarterback sack in the game and they held Andre Williams, the running back who won the Doak Walker Award over teammate Ka’Deem Carey, to just 75 yards.
For Fischer, it was special playing in front of the hometown crowd and even more special to play with other Tucsonans like Carey, Brooks Reed, Jared Tevis and Adam Hall, among others.
“It’s cool,” Fischer said. “We all had a special bond. Just to kind of do it together. It is great to grow up and compete against these guys, then coming in and getting to play with these guys and representing Tucson.”
Fischer misses playing football, but has no regrets. He can look back and know he played the game the right way and left it all on the field.
“I gave my mind, my body, my soul, I gave everything I had to the game and I got as much out of it as I possibly could,” Fischer said. “I tell kids you don’t want to look back and say ‘hey I could have done this.’ No regrets in life. That kind of mentality translates later in life. You want to give everything you’ve got. There is no other way to be successful in life.”
Fischer is working on having success after football. He’s just a few months into his new career, but his giving it the same effort that he gave football.
“I want people to know that I gave it my all,” Fischer said. “I wasn’t the biggest, the fastest the strongest, but I gave it my all.”
He may have been talking about his football career, but there is no doubt he is talking about life after football as well.