Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher Poised to Rack Up Plaudits this Season

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Northwestern’s best player this season will be their middle linebacker, a downhill, run-stuffing All-America first team candidate. Stop us if you heard this one before.

Yes, Paddy Fisher, a freshman All-American, has drawn plenty of comparisons to who his head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, who won both the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik award (which honor the nation’s top defensive player) twice. Both men shy away from the “Baby Fitz” label being applied to Fisher. The coach will tell you that he never had his pupil’s athleticism and natural ability while the student makes it known how much he needs to do in order to match his mentor’s accomplishments. 

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“It’s funny, but I’m me, I’m not anybody else,” Fisher said with a chuckle during our exclusive interview at the end of spring practice, “but I think it’s cool to have a little buzz around campus to give people something to talk about, but at the end of the day I’m Paddy Fisher.” 

“Coach Fitzgerald had his tremendous run here, and has done things that I still have yet to accomplish. I knew from a young age when I came in here that I’m not Anthony Walker, I’m not Pat Fitzgerald, I’m Paddy Fisher.”

Only teammate Blake Gallagher (127 tackles last season, rated by Lindy’s the #10 outside linebacker nationally) had more tackles than Fisher in the Big Ten last season.

Fisher, ranked the third best inside linebacker in the nation and a 2nd team all-American by Lindy’s, 229 tackles over the past two years. Don’t be shocked if he wins the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year award this December. 

“I don’t think that’s fair for him,” Fitzgerald said of Fisher being compared to him.

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“He’s a much better athlete. Paddy Fisher is an absolute terrific football player. You look at his body of work from just one season, I think it speaks for itself. He’s a big man. He’s all, of course, 245 pounds.”

“He can run, and he’s obviously very physical. He’s got a great football IQ. That comes from his pedigree in high school, one of the powerhouse programs in the country from Katy, Texas.”

Indeed Fisher did come to Evanston with high expectations, and huge shoes to fill.

Walker, who manned his position before he arrived, was an AP All-American in 2015, before going on to become a fifth round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts.

Expectations are sky high again for Fisher this season, a true force to be reckoned with and blue chip NFL prospect. And having a teacher like Fitzgerald can only help when it comes to Fisher reaching the next level.

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“Having a coach here that did what he did and knows the position in and out, and is the man that he is- there was no question that I wanted to play for him, so he was a big (influence) in the decision making process,” he responded when asked if Fitzgerald’s record and pedigree factored into his decision during the recruiting process.

Fisher said that some other influences to his game include Carolina Panthers superstar Luke Kuechly, the stellar Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears all-time legend Brian Urlacher and Mr. Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis.”

“A lot of people don’t understand how athletic he really was,” Paddy Fisher answered when asked what he takes from Urlacher.

“He was returning kicks in college; gritty, grinder, came to work everyday.”

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Just like last season, the front seven figures to be the strength of the Northwestern Wildcats. The defensive ends in front of the linebacking corps are really solid, with Samdub Miller and Joe Gaziano expected to be dominant. 

Fisher knows that he still has plenty of room for improvement though.  

“There’s a lot of functional and mechanical issues that I need to work on, and also taking that next step in the pass game and mastering the playbook,” he answered when asked what he still needs to improve upon.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, also contributes to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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