By Jessie Butler, UA Communication Services
As his senior season comes to an end, the memories of five years rush to his mind. The long hours of practice, inevitable injuries and returns, the valuable relationships with coaches and teammates and, above all, both the wins and the losses of 50 career games.
Senior linebacker Jake Fischer made his final debut at Arizona Stadium in front of a city he calls home and in front of family, friends and fans that he has shared his time with as a Wildcat.
“It’s very emotional,” Fischer said. “I haven’t really thought about it that much. Knowing that I have given everything I have to this program is going to be emotional.”
Fischer, an impact player for Arizona, has so far tallied up 245 tackles in his career as a Wildcat. His determination and hard work over his five years has made him a valuable asset to the program.
“We are going to lose a lot when we lose Jake,” said Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. “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. Anytime that you lose a kid that has played as much football as Jake has, that’s tough to replace.”
Although his Wildcat career will soon be over, Fischer looks to the past as having been some of the best years of his life.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Fischer said. “I wasn’t considering moving after the coaching change. I didn’t commit to a coaching staff, I committed to the school. I wasn’t going to go anywhere. We went through some hard times but I’m glad that I stayed here. The program is on the rise.”
Being at the forefront of the program has allowed Fischer to not only learn more about a sport he is passionate about, but it has also provided him an opportunity to learn about himself through some of the hard times of his career.
“I’ve learned that I have a great support system here,” Fischer said. “I’ve learned from the support staff that I have here that I am very resilient. I’ve learned that I can be an impact player. In high school, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to go to a Division I school, and through hard work, I’ve realized that you can achieve your goals.”
The resiliency of Fischer is inevitably seen through his transformation as a player. Fischer, who sat out during the 2011 season due to injury, came back as an improved player who continued to show Arizona that he belonged on the field.
Upon his return, he doesn’t say his improvements came from getting stronger, which he did, or being a better player physically, which he certainly proved, but it was his knowledge of the game.
“Knowing what’s going on allows me to stay in the game regardless of the position I am in because I like to know what’s going on,” Fischer said. “Knowing how the offenses are trying to attack our defense, we know where the weak links are in whatever coverage we are running. That just comes with one more year of experience being here.”
Casteel agrees that Fischer’s improvements have come from fundamentals and a better understanding of the game.
“I think Jake has a better understanding of what we’re doing,” Casteel said. “Jake has always been a student of the game. He works extremely hard. He’s been battling injuries from last year and this year, but he’s gotten better fundamentally. He has a much better understanding of what the people around him are doing.”
In his second season under head coach Rich Rodriguez, Fischer realizes that as a senior, his role has changed. Rather than sticking to his usual leadership by example, Fischer has stepped up vocally.
“We have a lot of young guys this season,” Fischer said. “We had a great senior class graduate last year, and they laid out a foundation. I didn’t have to be the big ra-ra guy before. This season, I had to take more of a vocal stance in my leadership position, so I’ve been more vocal whether its on the sideline talking to the guys after a play, pushing people in practice, motivating the team before games in the locker room or just helping the young guys.”
With just one more guaranteed game, Fischer believes that the best part of his senior year is the satisfaction of seeing the program on the rise, believing that the best is yet to come.
“For me, it’s seeing where I came in when the program was on a high and then on a low after my junior year that I sat out and not being able to help out my team and struggling as a program; and seeing where we have come coming out of that dip is really satisfying,” Fischer said. “After that whole thing, there were really low expectations. This will be the second year that we make it to a bowl game and hopefully the best is still yet to come.”
Whether or not the team is chosen for a bowl game, Fischer has given Arizona football five special years. In both good and bad times, he has given his all and today, we respectfully bid fare well to No. 33 Jake Fischer as he plays his final game in his beloved Arizona Stadium.