116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - The news conference set up this year is different for the Hawkeyes. They enjoy a nice breakfast/brunch in the upstairs of the Hansen Football Performance Center and then they take a flight of stairs down to the media pit of darkness.
This is where they're asked if the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry means anything to them. Or what their focus is. Or, well, you get the point. Ready, set and say hello to notebooks and TV cameras from across the state.
Senior Cole Fisher took a look into the media pit of ultimate darkness as he descended down the stairs on Tuesday and kind of cracked a smile.
Fisher had gone five years without saying much to the media. Granted, he only saw time on special teams. There wasn't a reason for Fisher to meet with reporters. Now, from basically out of nowhere, Fisher won the weakside linebacker job in camp and made his first career start in Iowa's season-opening 31-14 victory over Illinois State.
He led Iowa (1-0) with eight tackles and had a half tackle for loss. He's here now and he's an interesting story. So, walking down the steps to the media pit, he smiled.
'It's just a whole new experience for me,” said the fifth-year senior from Omaha, Neb. 'I mean, it's fun, definitely new. I'm still kind of getting acclimated to it, honestly.”
And, nope, no interviewing tips from his older brother, Sean, who played linebacker for Nebraska in 2011-12.
'Not on this part, no,” Fisher said. 'When they put me over here and everyone swarmed, it was like, ‘Oh, jeez.'”
That's kind of where we all are with Cole Fisher right now. Here he is after five years and 'Oh, jeez.” His eight tackles in last week's game were just one off his career total of nine.
Here he is now, oh jeez, how the heck did this happen in such a short time?
'I think the coaches would agree, I really have just mentally and physically grown up, finally, between the fourth and fifth years,” Fisher said. 'I think this is what they saw in me a long time ago, I've just been, I don't know, a late bloomer, I guess.”
He then peeled back the layers and retraced his steps a little bit. Last December, the Iowa defense found itself short at middle linebacker. After Travis Perry suffered an ankle injury at Minnesota, it basically was Josey Jewell and that was it. So, during TaxSlayer Bowl prep, Fisher, who in his career bounced from strongside linebacker to weakside, moved into the No. 2 middle linebacker slot and it changed his view of the game.
'When you get the view from all three positions, everything falls into place,” he said. '‘Oh, that's why we do this and this.' You know what everyone is doing, so it helps you out a lot. I think that was one of the main reasons I could make the jump from the fourth and fifth year.”
Another element that sort of sprung for Fisher to make a move on the football field was a decision he made in regard to his academics. Fisher is a civil engineering major with an elective focus area in structural engineering. He was accepted into grad school at Iowa to study structural engineering. It, however, didn't work with football, so he's taking the five hours he needs to graduate this semester and they include a general education history class and a sophomore-level engineering class he couldn't get to because football practice was in the afternoon.
Fisher set himself up for a coast semester by logging a ton of credit hours in his first four years, including one 18-hour semester. But, don't worry, the three-time academic all-Big Ten selection still plans on that graduate degree in structural engineering.
One thing to keep in mind, it's been a five-year climb for Fisher. Yes, he's having fun and enjoying this, but he knows he can't afford to plant a flag. Beyond middle linebacker Quinton Alston, who graduated, Iowa has shuffled the whole set of linebackers from the ones who started the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Flux might be the norm here, at least for a little while.
'I've been saying all along, it felt like we had five players that could play successfully at the linebacker position at the start of camp,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. 'And you're never sure how it's going to play out, so we try to give guys opportunities at different spots, some players more than others.
'Right now, we think he's (Fisher) in that equation of our three best guys, but we still have great confidence in Travis and Bo (Bower), so unlike last year, I think we're a little deeper at that position and feel confident about the guys. It's not that they're performing badly or whatever, it's just that Cole's ascended a little bit.”
In the meantime, welcome to the media pit of ultimate darkness, Cole Fisher, where a question like 'Did that game feel any different for you, in your new role?” actually means something. It was different.
'Yeah, I was playing defense for the first time, so yeah,” Fisher said with a laugh. 'Obviously, it was way different from what I'm used to. I was kind of worried about the speed of the game, because I haven't had a ton of reps on defense, so I was a little worried, especially with the running back and the QB from last week. I was like, ‘I hope I can keep up.'
'You get a couple of plays in and you get acclimated to the speed and then you realize, ‘Hey, I can really do this' and from there it was all just fun and games.”
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