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Fisher has always been eligible


   Jake Fisher is used to catching the ball.

Tim Wooer couldn't get the Bengals-Chargers game up in Traverse City, Mich., Sunday. So he went out in the woods to cut some wood and before he knew it, his phone blew up like Jake Fisher did in the Big North Conference championship game against Petoskey.

"Then I was checking Facebook and it wasn't long before it was up there," Wooer says. "It was fun to watch."

And truth be told, it was a bit jarring for Wooer, the head coach at Traverse City West High School, to see the 6-6, 306-pound Fisher rumble like the Trump bandwagon down the left sideline for a 31-yard catch, the longest reception by an NFL offensive lineman in 27 years. Quarterback Andy Dalton never flinched. Fisher stood up at left tackle, released from his block, floated into the flat, and was wide-open gone.

"He played high school ball at 256 I think," Wooer says. "I would say a guy about 300 pounds now running down the sideline looks a little bit more like a tackle versus the old high school tight end I remember. But it was fun to watch."

While everyone's eyes bulged at Paul Brown Stadium, from A.J. Green ("I told him to sidestep the guy next time") to the beer vendors, Wooer wasn't the least bit surprised. Even Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander turned to inactive linemen Cedric Ogbuehi and Trey Hopkins on the sidelines and said, "I'm shutting my eyes. Tell me when it's over."

Remember Bengaldom's old Dennis Roland drinking game, "No. 74 is eligible?"  Now that Fisher has his number, what goes into the mix if he gets a first down?

Sure, Fisher caught about 15 balls and had about three or four touchdowns for Wooer his senior year, including that fourth-and-nine diving grab from about 25 yards out against Petoskey. But Wooer built his high school highlights video on defense, basketball, and an on-side kick. Fisher's athleticism was a way of life at TC West.

"His best football highlights were at defensive end," Wooer says. "Against our rival Central midway through the second quarter on a roll-out pass they threw an arrow route and he just put up his hands and plucked it out of the air. He's got huge hands and he just plucked it. I've never seen a defensive end intercept a pass like that. That same year he intercepted a screen pass for a pick-six."

And then there was poor Petoskey again. They were in a hole early in the title game against TC West and were trying to on-side kick their way back. Fisher, on the hands team, was on the front line and had to move a few steps to catch a floater. But he kept going all the way to the three-yard line.

"We punched it in two plays later," Wooer says. "Big play. An on-side kick that turned into a long return."

Fisher was on the varsity basketball team for three seasons and while he downplays his career ("I was in foul trouble every game"), he was a starting post player on a team that went to the regional finals and Wooer got enough to tape.

"He had an amazing alley-oop one-handed dunk as a senior," Wooer says. "He got the rebound, kicked it out on the fast break, and he was the trailer. The wing just kind of tossed it up and he jumped from about the volleyball line. Grabbed it one handed and just hammered it home."

Naturally, that led the highlight video. But Wooer spiced it up one day in the gym by pulling out his camera, rolling out a ball, and telling him just to have some fun.

"He'd bounce it up and dunk it behind his head," Wooer says. "The tape became a marketing tool."

The Fisher that showed up to the Bengals for his pre-draft visit back in April is the same Fisher he coached. The Bengals loved his personality, his intensity, and love for the game.

"He's a yes sir, no sir guy," Wooer says. "Two phenomenal parents.  He was a 16, 17-year-old-kid being recruited and there were times in high school I had to push his buttons a little because he was not only so physically superior to the people we played but also to the guys on his own team. I pushed him from time-to-time and he embraced that coaching."

That's the guy the Bengals met and they were disappointed when he left the visit because that's the last time they figured they'd see him. No way would they get him in the second round, they thought. But he was there and he's here even though they took Ogbuehi in the first round.

"Our kind of guy," says offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, architect of the tackle eligible play that came out of an unbalanced line.

Fisher's emotion flew after he got knocked out of bounds by safety Eric Weddle. He double pumped his exultation before leaping into left tackle Andrew Whitworth's arms. As a rookie offensive lineman, Fisher already takes a lot of good-natured heat from a tough part of the locker room. So you can imagine what was waiting for him after that.

"Oh my God,' says Jackson, getting into the act. "We thought Spaz Man was back."

Wooer liked the atmosphere at training camp when he brought down three vans and about 20 players whom had perfect weight room attendance during the summer. They watched a practice and spent time with Fisher before driving back.

"I'm glad he's at a place that really wanted him," Wooer says. "The fact they went out on a limb and drafted two linemen shows you how much they think of him."

Wooer remembers those days Fisher grew up watching Bengals all-time leading receiver Chad Johnson catch the ball. To this day Fisher can recite his favorite Johnson TD celebrations with the cheerleader proposal topping the list.

"That makes me feel old," Wooer says. "I was back with Ickey Woods. Ocho Cinco doesn't seem too long ago."

What's really fresh for Wooer is just that tackle eligible concept. Wouldn't you know it, a few weeks back TC Central used it to beat them? TC West was up two scores, but Central used it to stop the momentum and ended up winning in overtime.

"They snuck into a left tackle position and we play a lot of man coverage," Wooer says. "So he went right down the middle of the field for about a 65-yard touchdown pass we gave up."

Wooer doesn't know if Jackson is going to use enough of Fisher to make a highlight tape. But he won't be surprised to see something on Facebook again.  

  "That was a beautifully designed play by the Bengals coaches," Wooer says. "It's a tough thing I think. You've got him out in those positions and he's an eligible receiver, you have to count numbers, and you have to keep track of jersey numbers and who's playing what. That would be a nightmare for a defensive coach."

Enough, maybe, to drive them to drink.

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