"The Mouse" Was Inspirational
By Michael Keys
Football players have tough nicknames.
Among the toughest are "The Nigerian Nightmare", "The Bus", "The Assassin", "Diesel" and "Mean Joe".
But, if you are a receiver in the 60's and 70's, lining up in front of a 5'8" 170lb (after a big meal) cornerback called "The Mouse"... be afraid. You may finish this game. You may score, once, maybe even twice (if you're good enough) but when the game is over, you will know that you were not playing against your average rodent.
The year is 1968. What is a 16 year old, under-weight, 5' 8'' pipsqueak of a Redskins fan to do?
Well, the first thing you do is be glad that it's 1968! Because that's the year that Patrick Fischer, free agent cornerback, decided to sign with his beloved Washington Redskins. You celebrate because now you have proof that there is no such thing as "too small."
Pat Fischer, the 17th Round Draft selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1961. Pat Fischer, who was so small, that during his rookie training camp while his Cardinal teammates suited up for practice, wore shorts and t-shirt because the team had to scrounge to find equipment that would fit him.
Pat Fischer was the proof that it was possible, not inevitable, but possible to do anything that you set your mind to even if common wisdom said "you are too small" or "you are too slow" or "you are too weak." Pat Fischer had heard, I'm sure, all of those things. His intelligence, heart, attitude, fearlessness and work ethic, however, were anything but small. He was rarely, if ever, the fastest player on the field but his quickness, tenacity, toughness and even his aggressiveness, were second to none.
"When you get a leg up, you own him" - Pat Fischer.
He had a reputation as a master of leverage who understood how to maximize his own power and punish those who would enter his domain. He was known for his work ethic, his honesty and his intelligence. He was a student of the art of the tackle. He could talk for hours about the angle of approach, the geometry of the hit, of gaining mechanical advantage and of removing the strength/speed and/or size advantage of his opponent. For him, it was both a science and an art. He reveled in the challenge of taking on the biggest, the fastest and the strongest. He also reveled in beating them all.
"The Mouse" was respected by his opponents. Few enjoyed the thought of playing against him. Playing four quarters of football across from him was a true test. A wide receiver could count on a non-stop test of wills. He entered the game knowing that he would be battered and bruised, badgered and beaten. There was no way he was going to walk off this field without his share of pain.
Fischer understood that intimidation was about attitude and on game day, his was invariably nasty. His spot on the bench became a no-man's land. If he had a wad of stickum in his mouth, you were best served to just leave him alone. He had work to do and woe be to the man who disrupted his concentration.
Off the field he was modest, respectful and humble. There is no way you'd recognize him as the fiercest cornerback in football.
As a sophomore Cornhusker, Fischer lead his team in all purpose yards, gaining yards through returning punts and kickoffs and in catching passes. He played cornerback, split end, tailback and even quarterback (though even he will admit he was not a passer).
His professional career spanned 17 years, between the Cardinals and the Redskins. He played in 213 games and had 56 interceptions, placing him 15th on the NFL’s all-time list (2 places ahead of the legendary Darrell Green).
Invariably, any discussion of Pat Fischer turns to the question: "Did he invent the bump-and-run?" While playing with the Cardinals, he was teamed in the defensive backfield with a very fast Hall of Fame free safety named Larry Wilson, who specialized in the safety blitz. In fact, Wilson was a devastating blitzer. Unfortunately, it was soon realized that this left a weakness that could be taken advantage of. The Cardinals were burned a few times by skilled quarterbacks finding the receiver running free into the hole left by the charging Wilson. This was solved by the use of the bump-and-run, a tactic that, fortunately for the Cardinals, Pat Fischer was tailor-made for. From that point on, he made a living of physically harassing receivers. Whether Fischer or his defensive coordinator, Chuck Drulis, invented the coverage is up for continued debate but there can be no doubt that Pat Fischer was the master. So good was he in this coverage that it was a major reason it was eventually outlawed.
His battles with Harold Carmichael, the outstanding GIANT of a wide receiver for the Eagles were not only legendary, but underlined the remarkable determination of Fischer. Carmichael stood a full 11 inches taller than Fischer. Most of their battles, however, were fought to a draw and were classic in their proportion both literally and figuratively. While Fischer has great respect for Carmichael, he calls Bob Hayes his toughest opponent ever, because he was too fast for him to get his hands on him.
His career ended after the 1977 season, following his second back injury. He recently told Robert Janis of the Washington Times "If it wasn’t for that, I would have played until they took my helmet away from me."
This was a man who just plain loved football.
Personally, watching Fischer literally changed my outlook on life. You see, I was that pipsqueak of a Redskins fan in 1968. I had fallen into that "I'm too small to do anything" funk. Every kid has his home team hero but often they don't have a clue why they chose him. I know exactly why I chose "The Mouse." He showed me and any number of other small young men that leverage was important. Leverage is the great equalizer and like size, it's not always physical.
Knowing what I do of Pat Fischer, I suspect he would be embarrassed when I say. "I could not have chosen a better role model." It would give me great pleasure to tell him "Thank you, sir. You helped to change my life. I gained both insight, and confidence, just from watching you play." As I think about my life today, it seems that I made the right choice in role models. My dad and Pat Fischer were both hard working and humble country boys with dirt under their nails.
You see, while "The Mouse" was not (is not) a big man, no man has ever had more heart. He made a difference in the best game in the world and undoubtedly in the lives of many young men and teenagers who were his fans.
What more can you ask of a football player?
- Michael Keys
Be sure to check out Pat's Wikipedia page.