How did a hardly-recruited, 240-pound basketball player from suburban Detroit become the top overall pick in the NFL draft?
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
It's not quite that simple, but both of Eric Fisher's head coaches at Central Michigan – Butch Jones and Dan Enos – mentioned the kindergarten concoction as a factor in one of the more unlikely ascents in recent NFL draft history.
Fisher, an offensive tackle, went No. 1 overall Thursday to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Asked how Fisher went unnoticed by every college except Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, Jones told Yahoo! Sports, "I have no idea. I'm still, to this day, dumbfounded."
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It was Jones (now head coach at Tennessee) who discovered the 6-foot-6 Fisher as a junior at Stoney Creek High, and he was so impressed with how he ran up and down the basketball court that he started pacing the sideline, making sure no Big Ten coaches were there to scout the kid. It was the last week of recruiting season, so it seemed too good to be true. Was there really no one else watching?
"I was extremely concerned," Jones said.
Fisher had football experience, but mostly as a linebacker, quarterback and (get this) punter. His high school football coach, Calvin Gross, had only recently taught him how to line up in a three-point stance. Gross saw the same potential Jones would: Fisher was athletic, had wide shoulders, long arms and mammoth hands.
But then there was another reason Fisher went largely unnoticed by bigger schools: his weight. Show a Division I pass rusher a 240-pound offensive lineman and he'll show you a sack. So the Chippewas staff ordered Fisher to set his alarm for 2 in the morning, get out of bed and munch down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or a few.
That wasn't all. Offensive line coach Mike Cummings placed peanut butter, jelly and bread outside his office and commanded Fisher to make sandwiches and eat them before coming into the room.
"We'd make him stand in the hallway," says Enos, who took Fisher and the Chips to a bowl win in December. "I think he got sick once from eating too many."
It worked. Fisher got to 300 pounds and stayed there his entire senior season – coming off a knee injury the year before, no less. Combine that weight with a first-class work ethic and that basketball athleticism, and voila: NFL gold.
Enos tells a story of how the Chips were so beat up on the offensive line two springs ago that he was ready to call off a scrimmage. The team didn't even have a center to snap the ball. Cummings asked his boss for a five-minute break and hurried over to the sideline with Fisher. Moments later, Fisher came back onto the field and lined up at center. Here's how Enos recalls the conversation with Cummings:
Enos: "Mike, we can do this?"
Cummings: "He'll be fine."
Enos: "Uh, OK."
Fisher played 50 snaps flawlessly. He stayed at center the rest of the spring. "He's nasty, tough, very smart," says Enos. "A technique freak."
Fisher, who didn't redshirt because CMU had so many injuries, gave up only one sack as a senior. Now here he is, a historic figure not only for Central Michigan, but for the entire Mid-American Conference. He's the first top pick in school history and in conference history, on the heels of MAC teams making seven bowls and sending Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl.
"It's the exclamation point on what's been a very good football year for us," says MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.
The momentum is only beginning. Enos has recruited six offensive linemen to Mt. Pleasant, and "all those guys were very aware of Eric," he says. "They all want to be the next one."
And yes, they will all be eating the breakfast of champions: PB&J. Says Enos: "We got a lot of guys doing that now."
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