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April 25, 2013In the high school class of 2009, Rivals.com ranked 95 offensive tackles. Eric Fisher wasn't one of them.
On Thursday night, he was the first overall selection of the NFL draft, by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fisher was a two-star, unranked recruit. He was a skinny offensive tackle (Rivals listed him at 260 pounds, but Fisher said he was 230) who had scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, and that's it. He said at the combine he talked to Michigan State and Purdue about walking on and "neither of them really wanted anything to do with me."
He played in the MAC, which has never had a player drafted higher than No. 7 overall, the spot Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich was selected. Every football fan knew about Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford before they were top overall picks. How many of you have ever seen Fisher play a game? OK, Central Michigan fans can put your hands down. Fans of other MAC teams and everyone who was snowed in when CMU played in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl last December can too. Yep, not too many of you.
Most top NFL picks are stars well before they're drafted. Fisher might have been able to walk through Times Square to the draft and not be recognized.
The last small school non-quarterback to go first overall was Ed "Too Tall" Jones of Tennessee State in 1974. Only three other offensive linemen have ever gone first overall in the NFL draft, and they went to football factories USC, Ohio State and Michigan.
There was no way to see this coming years ago when Fisher was ignored by almost every FBS school. There was no way of seeing it coming a little more than a year ago when he was just a third-team all-MAC selection as a junior. It didn't seem possible when he failed to make even one first-team All-American squad as a senior, though that was mostly because few voters knew about him.
In many ways Fisher, who couldn't get a Big Ten team to show interest in him as a walk-on, is the most unique first overall pick in NFL draft history.
"Hey, it doesn't matter where you start, it's where you end up," Fisher said at the combine. "That's a big thing I take to heart."
Adding to the unusual nature of the pick, it wasn't widely reported Fisher would be the top pick until just a few hours before the draft, a rarity during an era in which the No. 1 pick is usually well known weeks in advance. He apparently beat Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel in the Chiefs' draft room. He'll now protect new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who in a weird twist was protected by 49ers left tackle and fellow former Central Michigan player Joe Staley in his last job.
(AP)Fisher gradually got better in college. The 70 pounds he put on obviously helped. He opened eyes at the Senior Bowl and worked his way up to be the first overall pick of the draft. Fisher deserved to get drafted first overall. He's strong, agile and should be a good player for years. It's just that his path to being the top pick is unprecedented.
Pick an unranked two-star MAC offensive tackle recruit from this year's high school class, or scan the third-team all-MAC squad for a lineman and project them to be the first overall pick of the NFL draft someday. Better yet, don't bother. Fisher's story will likely never be repeated.
"I can't even process what's happening right now," Fisher told ESPN right after he was drafted. "This is a dream come true. The fact that I was the No. 1 pick, I can't understand what's going on right now. But what an honor."
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