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Former Gators nose guard Robin Fisher is now a county commissioner in Brevard County.

Friday June 28, 2013The Flashback Files: Gators Nose Guard Robin Fisher

Former Gators nose guard Robin Fisher is now a county commissioner in Brevard County.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – He could bench press 505 pounds. Not bad for a player who had to lift more weights than Arnold Schwarzenegger to maintain his playing weight of around 235 pounds.

“I remember one time on the scale in my junior or senior year Wayne Peace outweighed me by 5 pounds,’’ former Gators defensive lineman Robin Fisher said this week. “And he’s the quarterback.”

Fisher’s size – or lack thereof – was a common storyline during his three seasons as a lettermen for the Gators from 1979-81.

So was his Friday night ritual prior to a game.

Fisher was popular with fans as Florida's Little Big Man, the media for his insight and candor, and Florida coach Charley Pell for his leadership.

“Robin’s a real gentleman,’’ the late Pell is quoted in a Jacksonville Journal story from August 1980. “He’s as good a football player off the field as he is on the field. He’s what we mean when we talk about a scholar-athlete.”

As for those Friday nights before a game, Fisher’s gentlemanly side liked to spend them in a bubble bath.

The ritual was his way to wash away the week and refocus for Saturday’s game.

“The bubble bath is just a thing I’ve been doing since I was a junior in high school,’’ Fisher told the Jacksonville Journal in November 1981. “I’ll fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, get my Mr. Bubble and relax in the tub reading the sports section or Dear Abby.”

Fisher kept it light away from the field, but once he pulled that No. 66 jersey over his shoulder pads and lined up between ends Dock Luckie and David Galloway, the game-day player emerged from those bubbles.

More than 30 years later Fisher still draws on lessons from his time with the Gators as a politician in his native Brevard County.

Fisher is an insurance agent for State Farm by day – he has worked in the field for 24 years – and represents District 1 on the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners in his other job. Fisher was re-elected for a second four-year term in November and previously served on the city councils of Palm Bay and Titusville.

A Democrat in a mostly Republican county, Fisher’s popularity with the electorate is reminiscent of his popularity at UF as a team leader and spokesman.

“It’s kind of like my old football days,’’ he said. “It didn’t matter if we were at LSU or Georgia or FSU, we always flipped the coin in the middle of the field. That’s how you start the game. In politics, if more people would go to the middle of the field instead of going to the left or the right, then we could get this country moving and a lot more things will happen.

“I kind of go to the middle more than some of these far left or far right people and maybe that’s why in a Republican county we’ve got elected twice.”

Fisher developed an ability to adjust and fit in growing up in Satellite Beach. According to his friends he wasn't even the best athlete in the house. That honor belonged to his sister Cheryl Fisher, who came to UF a year before Robin and became a 1,000-point scorer for the Gators women's basketball team.

Cheryl's presence at UF helped Robin decide to call Gainesville home during his college years. He majored in public relations and uses his ability to bridge divided groups in his role as a county commissioner.

"It’s so much about the game that you bring to the political process,'' he said. "We call it game-day player. Those are the times when you’re at the dais at a commission meeting and the TV and cameras are live and certain things are thrown at you and you’ve still got to be able to get the votes but you’ve got to adjust what you are asking for.

"Some people in the political world will know how to make that adjustment and still get the same results, and some people aren’t game-day players. They can’t adjust to the crowd or the opposition from another elected official.”

Fisher emerged as a game-day player for the Gators as a sophomore.

In Pell's first season on the job – the infamous 0-10-1 season of 1979– Pell saw enough in the undersized Fisher to name him the starting nose guard. Fisher responded by doing something no other Florida defensive lineman has done since tackles became an official stat in 1973: he led the team in tackles (110).

Over the next two seasons Fisher played a vital role for a defense that carried the Gators to an 8-4 record in 1980 and 7-5 mark in 1981. In his final game at Florida Field, the Gators ended a four-game losing streak against Florida State with a 35-3 win.

Fisher calls the win the most memorable of his career.

"I had some tackles and I remember Bobby [Bowden] saying, 'I think they were giving him the plays. He was in the backfield all day.' "

Fisher was taken in the 10th round of the 1982 NFL Draft by Miami but was cut late in camp. He thought his football career was over until a call from former UF assistants Mickey Andrews and Mike Bugar, in their first season as defensive assistants with the USFL's Arizona Wranglers.

"I was working for Quaker Oats in Columbia, S.C. This was after the Dolphins cut me and I thought it was the end of the world,'' Fisher said. "Around midnight one night the phone rings and it’s Mickey Andrews and Bugar and they are on speaker phone. They both are on the line, ‘Hey, we need a nose guard. You want to sell grits or play football?’ I called my Quaker manager, ‘I’m not coming in today. I’m flying to Arizona.’ "

Fisher spent two seasons in the USFL and eventually returned to Brevard County to start his insurance career.

The only regret he has from his Florida career is that Pell never got to hand out a victory cigar during that tumultuous 1979 season.

The closest Florida came to a victory was a 7-7 tie against Georgia Tech in the second game of the season.

"He was big on giving cigars out after each win," Fisher said. "I waited all year to get a cigar and never got one. He could have given us a half of one for Georgia Tech.”

Here is a short Q&A with Fisher:

Q: Why did you go into politics?

A: I’ve always had an interest in politics. I like politics to a certain level. There are a lot of things I don’t like about it, too, but I like being part of the decision-making process. I think I bring a business man’s experience to the job, which has been helpful from the county standpoint. It’s been a fun four-and-half years.

Q: How did you stay motivated during that 1979 season?

A: That was of course a hard year. It was a character-building year, too. You still had to get up every week and look for some hope that you can win your next one.

Q: How did you guys turn it around the next season?

A: I remember Coach Pell telling us after the season, 'that won’t happen again. We won’t have another season like that. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got committed people in the program, from players to coaches to everyone else.' He kind of cleaned house and got down to the root of the problem. He made some tough decisions on letting some players go and 8-4 became a fun year.

Q: Do you take some pride in still being the only defensive lineman in school history to lead the team in tackles?

A: It is really surprising and I didn’t even know until five, six, seven years ago. I was with some guys watching TV and someone said so and so has a chance to lead the team in tackles. It would be the first time since Robin Fisher and we all looked at each other, ‘what.’ I’m surprised that record has still held. It’s kind of hard to believe because there are so many good players to come through Florida and that record still sits there.

Q: You played against Georgia running back Herschel Walker. Was he the toughest player you ever had to tackle?

A: Yep, with all that momentum. He was an animal -- big thighs, big legs, always running forward. He was hard to bring down.

Editor’s note: The Flashback File is an occasional feature on GatorZone.com.

 

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