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Standing tall

COC cornerback Fisher has become a star by playing bigger than his height

Posted: October 4, 2009 9:45 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons defensive back Arron Fisher, who earned the nickname "Fishcat" while in high school in Florida, has trained with former COC wide receiver Hayo Carpenter and several NFL players.

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Going back to his Pop Warner days, College of the Canyons cornerback Arron Fisher was never the tallest player on the field.

Far from it.

In fact, listed as 5-feet-8-inches in COC’s program, he’s probably centimeters away from being one of the smallest.

Yet Fisher’s speed and toughness have helped him become one of the best at his position in the National Division, Northern Conference, which named the defensive back to its all-conference first team as a freshman last season.

“We had him nominated for all-conference last year, and with every single coach it was unanimous,” says Cougars head football coach Garett Tujague. “As we were going down the list (of nominated players), coaches were calling him out and saying, ‘Hey, what about (Fisher)?’”

Despite being relatively undersized for his position, Fisher emerged again this year as a leader of a defense that is holding opponents to 14.6 points per game, good for fifth among teams in the Southern California Football Association.

And even Fisher’s 68-inch roster height is disputed.

“I saw that (the program) said 5-foot-8 and I thought, ‘That’s generous,’” says his mother, Pamela Watson, with a laugh. “But I think that’s why he plays so hard, because of his height. ... He’s a tough little something.”

Fisher’s high school coach didn’t hesitate to name Fisher’s biggest attribute: heart.

“People will say, ‘He’s not big enough,’” says Tim Smith, Fisher’s head coach at West Orange High School in Orlando, Fla. “But he won’t listen to them. It doesn’t bother him. (His size) actually gives him a psychological advantage lining up, because he’s not scared of anybody.”

Fisher says as long as he can remember he’s been one of the smallest guys on whatever team he’s playing for, but he doesn’t spend much time thinking about it.

Called “Fishcat” by his hometown friends in Orlando, the speedy corner was a standout for West Orange and played in the Special Olympics Central Florida All-Star Game, a postseason charity game that invites the top high school football players from the region.

After a three-year varsity career that saw Fisher play almost every position on offense as well as cornerback, Smith says the standout memory he has of Fisher is from summer workouts with trainer Tom Shaw, who works with the Pittsburgh Steelers and several other professional athletes.

Shaw invited Fisher and a couple of his high school teammates to work out with Pittsburgh Steelers Ike Taylor, James Farrior and New Orleans Saint Darren Sharper, among others.

“They told us we couldn’t be fans, because we had to focus on training,” Fisher says. “But it was an amazing experience.”

Fisher says he shadowed Taylor and tried to learn as much as he could, picking up tips on positioning and how to read receivers.

And Smith says by the end of the workouts, the pros had discovered what a competitor Fisher was.

“They all knew Fishcat,” Smith says. “(Fisher) would be out there covering NFL receivers. It was unbelievable.”

Smith says that after high school, however, Fisher’s size left him overlooked by a lot of coaches when they came to Florida to assess local talent.

“When (coaches) come to Florida ... especially for defensive backs, because NCAA receivers are so tall now, they’re looking for that 6-foot, 6-foot-1 DB now,” Smith says.

While most players with Fisher’s athleticism were signing letters of intent to four-year schools, an eligibility issue made it hard for Fisher to find a fit for his talent.

Even Tujague says he missed Fisher at first glance.

The coach said he was told about Fisher and saw the tape, but took issue with Fisher’s height.

“We had videotape on him, but I didn’t really pay attention to it because he was (5-foot-7),” Tujague says. “We were trying to find somebody 6-foot, and then we were going through the tape and I popped it back in and I thought, ‘We need this kid.’”

Fisher said after talking to Tujague and assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Don Fellows, he liked what he had heard from the coaching staff.

Initially reluctant because of the 2,500-mile move involved, Fisher says he realized COC was the best opportunity available and made a decision to pack his bags.

“I wanted to stay local, but I figured that if I wanted to make it to the next level I would have to leave home,” Fisher says. “If I had to move far away from home, then I would have to do that.”

Last year as a freshman at COC, Fisher found plenty of chances to see if he could be successful at the next level, working daily with former COC wide receiver Hayo Carpenter.

Carpenter, who left last year after breaking most of the school’s receiving records, currently plays receiver for the University of Minnesota.

“Everybody was talking about Hayo, but I didn’t really know how good he was until I tried to guard him,” Fisher says.

Fisher said he learned valuable lessons from Carpenter, such as certain “shows” he should avoid that indicate what he’s going to try against a receiver. And on the flip side, he learned what to look for when wideouts are running routes.

Fisher’s ability to make the most of his size has repeatedly impressed Tujague.

“Fish does a ton of things for us,” Tujague says. “He does a great job playing corner for us and eliminating the receiver. He’s an amazing athlete.”

Fisher’s playmaking ability has shown itself this season, most notably in a 26-13 win against Fullerton on Sept. 25 at Cougar Stadium.

After Fisher broke up four total passes on third- and fourth-down situations, Cougars defensive back Kalen Powell caught an interception at midfield on the last play of the game and pitched it to Fisher, who scored a touchdown.

“I’m always trying to make those kinds of plays happen. I play with heart, I play with passion, no matter the size,” Fisher said after scoring his team’s final touchdown against Fullerton.

“I know I’m undersized,” Fisher says smiling. “But I’m a pretty good player.”

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