In the long history of the NFL there have been players who defined their positions because of their physicality. Men like Dick Butkus, Dick “Night Train” Lane, and Lawrence Taylor were freaks at their position. They were bigger than what other teams were geared to deal with normally. Yet there are those that stand out as hitters first although their size would suggest something different. Enter Pat Fischer.
Standing only 5’9, and 170 lbs (that can’t be right) Smith played in an era where the NFL was a running league. Unlike today’s game where he could play out in space chasing an X, Z, or slot receiver, Fischer had to come up and tackle in an era where everyone was emulating Green Bay’s power sweep. He had to take on pulling guards, some fullbacks along with his coverage responsibilities. Yet he only missed 10 games in his first 16 years.
His physical play belied his diminutive size as he played as a pint sized intimidator. Lionel “Train” James loves to say “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Never was this more true than of Pat Fisher. Even in the Super Bowl VII highlight, NFL Films had John Facenda narrate how much a nemesis he was against the run and the pass. Let’s face it, a cornerback his size now is primarily a special team guy who is platooned only against multiple receiver sets. They rarely tackle players other than small slot receivers. Take a look at how Fisher played…
In the NFL of the 1960’s there was a concentration of talent that stayed with the same teams and systems for many years. Fischer was caught in this vice where Hall of Fame cornerbacks Dick “Night Train” Lane, Herb Adderley, Jimmy Johnson, and Lem Barney were playing. He was an overlooked player for awhile and some of it could have been other players not leaving behind on-field animosity when voting for fellow players.
There has to be some truth to it or Fischer wouldn’t have had one of his 3 Pro Bowl seasons in 1969 when he had just 2 interceptions. Now his first, in 1964, where he picked off 10 returning them for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns couldn’t be ignored. That was 1 TD short of the all time record. Yet other years he was overshadowed by these other players.
One could also make the argument Fischer’s 1969 Pro Bowl and All Pro season came because of the higher visibility Vince Lombardi brought to the team in his only year coaching there.
Whatever the reason, Fischer played from 1961-1977 and retired having played in more games at cornerback in NFL history. If you think about that time frame, he came in 9 years before the AFL / NFL merger and played through the 12th Super Bowl. This is before the modern athlete could have arthroscopic surgery between seasons to prolong their careers. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame??
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