For a lot of young football players growing up, the goal is to make it to the NFL. For Jaelin Fisher, that goal was farthest from his mind initially.
“Growing up I was raised in a single-parent home. Just from that standpoint alone, you already get criticized about that and it was just hard. We lived with my great granny at first and then from there, we moved, and she got her own place over near Peal-Cohn.”
At that point in time, there was no thinking about being a professional football player. Although Fisher started playing football when he was ten, by the time he hit middle school, he found himself off the field and on the basketball court. But it was in his freshman year that two of his mentors started to steer him from the basketball court back to the football field.
“I bumped into Coach (Tony) Brunetti at Pearl and he said, ‘Instead of playing basketball, you need to get out there on the field.”
His uncle, Nathaniel Phillips, also said something to him his freshman year of high school:
“My uncle sat me down and told me to quit messing around and think about what I was doing. He told me that I could change your family’s life. When he told me that, I just had to put the work in, because living paycheck to paycheck was not going to be it for my family. He was really hard on me growing up and he saw a future for me to where he thought I could get to the position I am in now.”
After seeing what all went into playing basketball, seeing what basketball players go through, and listening to the advice of his football coach and his uncle, Jaelin tried out for the football and made the team, playing right and left tackle.
Fisher played and played well, but he was not heavily recruited because of weight issues. His junior year of high school, he was 275 and got a trainer to lose fat and gain back in muscle mass during the process. Unfortunately, he lost the weight but never got built back up, as he played his senior season at 230 pounds. As a result, schools did not want to take a chance on him because they believed he was too light to play the position. After his senior season, he had no offers at all lined up for college.
Again, a mentor, Coach Brunetti, stepped in and guided Fisher.
Brunetti called Charlotte and spoke to a connection he had there, defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, and told them about Fisher and what he could be for Charlotte and it seemed like magic happened because Fisher was on the phone with someone from Charlotte and he got offered to play football at the university, getting up there halfway through camp.
“Getting an offer my first week at Charlotte was a real eye-opener. I was just living in the moment honestly, but it was a wakeup call to take this seriously.”
The success didn’t happen for Jaelin immediately though. He had to recoup the weight and also learn where he was going to fit best, trusting the coaches to be his guide. And it was one coach there at Charlotte that would make that position change that would help him even more.
“Freshman year, I was at left tackle and I stayed there the majority of the season because I got redshirted. The year after, Coach Richards at Charlotte said ‘We are going to move you inside because honestly you’re not going to make a living outside because of your height. “
From there, Fisher began to hone his skills at center until one game, the starting center got hurt and his number was called.
“In 2017, we played Florida International University and the starting center got hurt and I was the next man up. I was still new to center and I was snapping the ball everywhere. Just from that, people didn’t believe in me in practice. When it came to game time, I had two people talk to me. One of them was the starting right tackle at the time, Chris Brown. He told me to just visualize yourself making plays see yourself doing great things. Cam Clark (left tackle on the team) was the other person and he told me he believed in me. I had a great game in that game with 12 knockdowns and only one missed assignment with a high grade. That was my moment that I thought to myself I could play at the next level.”
As far as what Fisher believes he can offer NFL teams, the answer is simple.
“My best attributes are just being athletic and identifying the defense. Even in the phone calls I have been on, people have told me that I was really athletic.”
Fisher knows nothing is certain for the draft and with him catching and overcoming Covid and also going through this unorthodox draft process due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, he technically has not been able to show his skills to teams. But understanding the process he went through to get here, from his path onto the field his sophomore year of high school, his path to college and the time he knew he could do this, no one should ever underestimate that when given an opportunity, Fisher is going to show up and show out.