NEW YORK — Eric Fisher is as big as a giant and looks a bit like a bouncer at a rough bar. Thats part of what the Chiefs liked about him. He plays football like an ornery cuss, with a nasty streak and the kind of factory-worker style that old-timers sometimes say doesnt exist anymore.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
Thats part of why the Chiefs made Fisher, a left tackle from Central Michigan, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night, and its part of why people sometimes get the wrong idea about him. Hes a 6-foot-7, 305-pound sweetheart who puts pass rushers in the dirt because he wants to make his mother proud.
Heidi Langegger raised this enormous son by herself, a single mother whos on her 33rd year working in Volkswagens warranty department. As her boy realized a dream on Thursday at Radio City Music Hall, mom did a little crying and a lot of reflecting. Can you believe this? Her son?
He was my little man, she says. Now, hes my big, little man.
Langegger felt her son change a bit after the diagnosis. She fought thyroid cancer when Eric was young, and she didnt want to scare him. But she could tell it shook his world.
Shes cancer-free now, but ever since the diagnosis, Eric became very protective. Grew up a little bit. She was the mother, the caregiver, all of those things. But he became more than a son. He returned the love. Never gave mom a problem. Even in college, hed skip out for a weekend to come back to his country home to see mom. Sometimes theyd split logs together outside. Sometimes theyd talk. Sometimes theyd laugh.
Shes been through a lot in her life, Fisher says. The fact that shes going to live a very happy life from here on out, its great for me.
Langegger keeps saying this is the kind of thing that happens to other people. Like winning the lottery. The NFLs first pick? Please.
Shes trying to soak it all in. She made a new dress for the occasion. She has been 6 feet tall since she was 12 years old I guess thats where Eric gets his height so becoming a seamstress on the side saved a lot of trouble. Maybe you saw the dress on TV. She swears the red-and-black choice was just a coincidence.
Nobody saw this coming. Fisher started college with the idea hed be a mechanical engineer, but grew literally into a football star. Four years ago, he was a two-star recruit with two college scholarship offers. Four months ago, he was rated as a mid- to late-first round pick in the NFL Draft.
This is a mix of nature and nurture. Fisher is a gifted athlete, even by NFL standards. He is not a tree-trunk-calved stiff. He played quarterback as a high school freshman, then two years as an outside linebacker. Pretty good basketball player back then, too.
Its the athleticism that pushed him up the draft boards so quickly. You watch tape, and you see a giant man punking a bunch of mid-major pass rushers. Scouts can be a skeptical bunch. Two of Fishers best games came against Iowa and Michigan State, but thats enough for the first pick. Coming out of the college season, the consensus as much as it exists in something as subjective as projecting NFL Draft prospects was that hed be the third or fourth left tackle taken.
That began to change when scouts saw Fisher up close, talked to him, measured him. Texas A&Ms Luke Joeckel is said to be perhaps more technically sound, but Fisher is the better athlete with more room to grow and a productive mean streak. Now, the consensus is that Fisher will quickly become one of the leagues best five left tackles. He wants to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Mom saw the whole story unfold, making her way to all but three of her sons college games. She says itll take a while for this all to sink in. Shes been so cautious about football.
She always told her boy, If you make it to the next level. If. She did this before and after each of his college games. She wanted his head in the right place, and besides, she always taught him that nothing in this world is given. You have to work for it. So after the Senior Bowl, she and Eric sat down for some pizza. They both heard what NFL people were saying.
Mom, he said, this is going to become a reality.
Yeah, she said. I know.
From that point on, Langegger said when. Fisher has promised to pay off the house he grew up in. Hes been begging mom to retire for a while now, and just last week she sent a letter to human resources. Shes done at the end of June. Finally.
Shes worked a full life and her son is the Chiefs newest star, an instant millionaire, the man who will help protect the new quarterback maybe even his blindside if the Chiefs trade an unhappy Branden Albert and even a product spokesman.
This is a strange place for an offensive lineman, but Fisher is getting used to it. Nobody in his family has been through anything like this, so hes trying to enjoy it. He can help the people he loves this way.
Theres a deal with a laundry detergent, and another with a jeweler. That commercial is set around Mothers Day. Langegger wont forget it, her son walking in and telling her he loves her, what she means to him, and giving her the bracelet he picked out.
Its one of those with the charms, personalized, and she wears it on her left wrist. The stones are red, which like the dress she swears is a coincidence. Fisher picked that color for his college. Langegger smiles.
But now we dont have to change it, she says.