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Mark Martin's Notepad

Fisher is proud to be a part of Mountain State athletic lore
August 28, 2012

Mark Martin As he wrapped up a sterling speech as the keynote speaker for the 50th Annual Fairmont State Athletic Association Spring Scholarship Banquet, Jimbo Fisher joked about his former teammates at another school offering forgiveness.

“Hopefully, the old guys at Salem won't be mad at me,” he said with his enthusiastic smile.

Fisher played the bulk of his college football career at what was then known as Salem College (later renamed Salem-Teikyo University and is now known as Salem International). He was an outstanding quarterback for the Tigers. He first played under Terry Bowden, the son of Bobby, and later the colorful Corky Griffith.

Fairmont, of course, was the chief rival of Tiger football teams. “That was one of the great rivalries and one of the games we always looked forward to,” said Fisher.

Fisher, a product of Liberty Harrison High School just outside of Clarksburg, ventured to Clemson University to play baseball after graduation in 1984. But he missed football and returned to his home state to play for the Tiger program that was just down the road from where he grew up.

He was the West Virginia Conference's Offensive Player of the Year in both 1985 and 1986. He led the Tigers to the NAIA playoffs in the '85 season.

Fisher, though, made a tough decision after the 1986 season at Salem, which would drop football following the 1988 campaign. He transferred to Samford to play his final year of college football for Bowden, who had left Salem for the Alabama-based school where his father had both played and coached (when it was known as Howard). At Samford, Fisher was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year in the 1987 season after throwing a record 34 touchdown passes.

When he departed Salem, it essentially ended his days in West Virginia, but his love for the hills still runs deep. “This is a wonderful state, any time I can give back I love to do it,” he said.

Since his days in the Mountain State, Fisher has moved up the ladder of the coaching profession in impressive fashion. He is now entering year number three as the head coach at Florida State University. Fisher had the challenging task of taking over for the legend Bobby Bowden, who just happened to be the second winningest coach (and now the winningest) in the history of college football. He also just happened to be Terry's father and the man who guided WVU football when Fisher was growing up in West Virginia.

“Coach Bowden and I had a great relationship,” said Fisher, who was the program's offensive coordinator for Bowden's final two seasons at the helm. “My core beliefs are very similar. So I think the way we go about our business and the things we believe, I think from that transition point it made it a lot easier.”

Before coming to Florida State, Fisher had worked as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU in the seasons of 2000-2006. In Baton Rouge, he called the plays for a program being led by West Virginia native Nick Saban, who hails from the small Marion County area of Carolina and played for old Monongah High.

“Nick and I are very good friends. We talk quite often,” said Fisher. “A lot of my core beliefs come from him also. Nick is a phenomenal coach, great organizer, great coach and a great defensive mind. We had some great teams at LSU together (including winning a national championship in January of 2003). Nick is still a very good friend. I still bounce ideas off of him all the time.”

Before LSU, Fisher worked with Auburn as quarterbacks coach in the seasons of 1993-98. Four of those years he was under Tommy Bowden (Bobby's son and Terry's brother), who at the time was the offensive coordinator for the Tiger program. He spent the 1999 season at Cincinnati before heading off to LSU.

Of course, his ascent in the coaching world likely wouldn't have happened without the bond formed with Terry Bowden at Salem and Samford. “Coach Bowden took me under his wing,” said Fisher, who played one year of Arena Football before beginning his coaching career. “A lot of my philosophies and beliefs came from Coach Bowden many, many years ago. So, it's kind of ironic where I ended up.”

Fisher, who coached at Samford for five seasons before moving on to Auburn, says he is thrilled to see Terry Bowden back coaching a Division I program at Akron.

On January 1, 2010, Fisher faced off with WVU in the Gator Bowl – Bobby Bowden's last as the Seminoles head coach. This season was to be his second meeting against the school from his home state, but the game was shelved. Fisher was disappointed but can grasp the reality of the situation.

“It's disappointing we didn't get a chance to play this year, but I understand,” he said. “They (WVU) had to join the conference (Big 12) and that's our world today. That would have been a great game and a great rivalry.”

Fisher feels this could be a banner year for the Seminoles in Tallahassee. “I think it's the best team we will field since I've been here,” he said. “I think we're finally becoming a program again. We're getting enough depth that we can withstand some injuries, where in the past we couldn't. We knew it was going to take some time and going into this year I think we have a chance to be a very, very good football team.”

Fisher's younger brother, Bryan, is the offensive coordinator for Fairmont State University's football program. Bryan Fisher played college football at Liberty University and enjoyed success as the head coach at Robert C. Byrd High before moving on to the West Virginia Conference's version of FSU.

“We grew up playing our whole life. I think he's doing an outstanding job. He loves coaching, he loves kids,” said Fisher. “I think they are making an impact.”

The Fisher brothers grew up as the sons of a coal-mining father (the late John Fisher) and a school-teaching mother (Gloria Fisher). Their mother still teaches chemistry at Robert C. Byrd High. Being raised in the hills of West Virginia is something Fisher is quite proud of and treasures to this day.

He was the latest impressive name to serve as the guest speaker at the FSAA event. Fisher is also on a list of outstanding sports figures to come from the Mountain State.

“There have been a lot of great people from this state, a lot of great athletes. Just to be included into that conversation I feel very honored,” he said. “Because there's good people in this state. Good hard-working people come from this state who love athletics.”

It's nice to see that Jimbo Fisher still cherishes the state where his success in the sports world was launched.


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