By Jon Lemons:
It's hard for a season to end on any higher of a note than Andrew Fischer's 2014 campaign did.
Harvard had jumped out to an early 24-7 in lead in the Game, but the offense had been stuck in mud all fourth quarter, managing just two first downs until this final drive. Yale's offense, meanwhile, was in the midst of a furious comeback, reeling off 17-unanswered points. In front of a packed house, with NBC Sports Network and ESPN College Gameday on hand, another unproductive series by the Crimson would almost surely spell defeat.
Harvard begins the drive at its own 22-yard line with 3:44 left. A scramble by quarterback Connor Hempel gets the Crimson a fresh set of downs. A carry by running back Paul Stanton gets them another, and puts them over midfield.
Barely a minute to play. Fischer grabs a 12-yard completion at Yale's 35-yard line. Clock ticking.
The ball is snapped, Fischer darts over the middle.
A slant! The defender's seen it before – all game, really. He crashes down, cutting off Fischer's route.
Except, wait. The receiver isn't there anymore. A double move! But it's too late. The former track star is already cruising down the sideline toward the end zone.
A strike from quarterback Connor Hempel hits Fischer in stride, and a few more takes him into the end zone. Game-winning touchdown. His second score of the game.
"I will always remember that," Fischer says. "The atmosphere. (ESPN's College) Gameday being there. Being on national television. It was the first game that my whole family was able to come out and watch. So I think having them there, you know, (and) the publicity that went along with it. In its entirety it was just a surreal moment."
His family chose a good one. Fischer had a career-high 264 all-purpose yards that day last November, including 149 on eight catches. On the season, the Diamond Bar, California native racked up a team-leading 55 receptions, good for sixth most in a season in school history. Also the team's kick returner, Fischer finished second in the Ivy League with 129.8 all-purpose yards per game, and currently ranks third in team history with a 22.9-yard kickoff return average.
So what does Fischer hope to do for an encore performance?
"I honestly tend not to focus on those (individual accomplishments)," he says. "I base (my success) off of how well the team does. I know the coaches are always looking for individual goals that I want to accomplish, but I feel like if my individual goals are to be first team All-Ivy League and to do this or that, it isn't as rewarding as if the team does well… For the most part, if the team does well, those other things will come."
Fischer says his role this year is no different than it's been. "I'm like the hype man," he says. "Always trying to get people energized, motivated. I try to mentor the younger guys on the field. Remind them it's a game. (That they should) run around and have fun. 'You're with your friends and family' I tell them. I think it's important to take a step back and realize that. And when you're having fun running around, you kind of forget how hard you're working."
Hard work is something the 5'9", 170 pound Fischer is no stranger to.
"My freshman year," Fischer recalls, "the coaches were always telling me I could have anything I wanted - if I was willing to put in the work. So I came in thinking that I was going to play. Not from the sense that they had said so or that I was being extremely confident. It was the fact that I was very confident in my abilities and I knew that I was going to work for it and do whatever was necessary to get into that position."
The effort appeared to pay off. In his first season in Cambridge, Fischer appeared in an impressive eight games, recording eight catches, seven kick returns, and four rushes, including a 58-yard TD run against Bucknell.
"I think the coaches saw my intensity, my determination. They kind of let me get a little more playing time and I took advantage of those opportunities," he said.
In training camp the following season, the sophomore overtook a number of upperclassmen in the receiving corps to earn a starting job. An accomplishment he attributes to his work ethic.
"It was pretty close as far as talent and skill," Fischer states. "I think it came down to who wanted it more, and I was just 110 percent, every practice, and I think it showed."
Fischer played just six games due to injury and still finished tied for third on the team with 24 receptions.
He showed no signs of the injury as a junior, playing all 10 games and earning second team All-Ivy honors, as well as some sterling reviews from his head coach Tim Murphy. "Pound for pound, Fisch may be the best and most explosive player in the Ivy League," Murphy says. "Because he fights well above his weight class he is an inspiration to his teammates and coaches."
There was also that little fourth-quarter, game-winning touchdown catch to beat Yale at home on NBC Sports Network and in front of a sold-out Harvard Stadium.
"Definitely the best moment I've had," Fischer says. "…So far."