KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It was sometime after the Senior Bowl when Eric Fisher realized he was going to be picked early in the NFL draft. He might even have a shot at being the first player selected.
So he sat down with his mother, Heidi Langegger, who had raised him in a single-family home, and gave her a sales pitch: “Mom,” Fisher said, “there’s a good chance this is going to become a reality, and I want to take care of you. I want you to retire.”
Reality set in for Fisher on Thursday night, when the Kansas City Chiefs made him just the third offensive tackle taken first overall since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
And reality set in for Langegger when she sent an email to her boss in human resources at Volkswagen, where she’s spent the past 33 years working in the warranty department.
“I have to say, it hasn’t set in yet,” said Langegger, who will retire at the end of June. “This is something that happens to other people. We’re just regular, blue-collar, hard-working people. This is something that happens to others. It’s really Eric’s dream coming to reality.”
The first No. 1 overall pick from the Mid-American Conference never had things given to him growing up.
His mother told him he could ride the bus to school, or he could get a job and buy his own truck. Fisher chose the latter, working on about 20 acres of land just down the road from his own rural home near Detroit, and eventually saved up enough money to buy a used Ford F-150.
He had it until a couple months ago, when he sold it with 200,000 miles on it.
Fisher would mow lawns, cut down trees, paint decks and sell firewood to drum up some extra cash, never shying away from the kind of manual labor that he eventually came to relish.
When the 1940s hunting lodge that he lived in with his mom had a raccoon infestation, it was Fisher who did got rid of the varmints, and then fixed the insulation they had chewed up.
“Growing up that way, you realize how good you have things,” Fisher said Friday, “and to be put in this position, it’s crazy. But throughout high school, I always did manual labor. Whatever I could do to make a couple bucks, I’d do it. I worked very hard to get in this position.”
This position is about as far from the sticks as you could get.
He has spent most of the past week being paraded around the streets of New York City, and was under the brightest of lights at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night. That’s when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell read his name first and Fisher strode confidently across the stage.
The whirlwind hasn’t stopped, either.
Fisher got about two hours’ sleep after wrapping up his obligations in New York, and then caught an early flight to Kansas City. He was greeted at the airport by a few fans hoping to snag an autograph (he obliged, of course) and a few intrepid TV crews looking for an interview.
Once he arrived at the Chiefs’ practice facility, he spent time at lunch with team chairman Clark Hunt, met the coaching staff and some of his new teammates, and then answered many of the same questions over and over for dozens of reporters and television anchors.
“A lot of people are handed things,” Fisher said, “and you see that sometimes and say, ‘I wish I had that.’ But now, I’m grateful I wasn’t given that, and look where I am now. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Nor would the Chiefs want him to be anywhere else.
General manager John Dorsey settled on Fisher a couple of weeks ago, ultimately picking him over Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, another offensive tackle who went No. 2 to Jacksonville.
“We felt everything about Eric represented what the Kansas City Chiefs are all about, as a person and also his ability to play the game,” Dorsey said. “That’s why it’s exciting.”
While Fisher has the look — he’s 6-foot-7, 306 pounds — of an NFL left tackle, he said he’s willing to play wherever new coach Andy Reid puts him. That could mean starting off on the right side as a rookie and eventually switching over to protect the blindside of new quarterback Alex Smith.
“Watching three tackles come off in the first four picks, I think people knew they would go high, but nobody was expecting that,” Hunt said. “I think it shows that a lot of teams know that you have to win in the trenches, and we certainly feel that way.”
The Chiefs didn’t do much winning last season, going 2-14 to land a No. 1 pick for the first time in 50 years. But there’s a newfound sense of optimism hovering over the organization these days, and Fisher’s bring-it-on demeanor seems to be fitting right in.
“There are a lot of expectations to live up to,” he said, “and I’m the kind of guy that takes that on. Very seriously, I’m going to do everything in my power to be the best player and show everybody why I was the first pick. I will back that up the best I can.”