AVON, Ind. – A “who’s who” of recent Avon High School football stars lingered in the hallway outside of the athletic office this week, waiting to get their pictures taken. Names like Sampson James, Isaac Guerendo, Jalen Peterson, D.J. Bowles and Addison Batton. All mainstays for a program that has been a consistent winner under coach Mark Bless.
But none of those Avon stars – and throw in Brandon Peters, Elijah Daniel and Bryant Fitzgerald, too – generated the recruiting interest at this age of the mammoth 6-6, 325-pound junior-to-be who chit-chatted with them in the hallway.
Blake Fisher might be the most highly-sought recruit Bless has ever had in his 29 years as a head coach.
“We’ve had several (top recruits) here,” Bless said. “I think the different Power Five (conference) schools coming in for Blake is a little more widespread than the others were.”
To say Fisher’s recruitment is blowing up would be an understatement. He has almost twice as many scholarship offers (30 and counting) than his years (he turned 16 on March 25). Not just anybody, either, for a player who is classified as a four-star recruit by 247sports and the No. 90 overall prospect in the country.
Purdue and Indiana were two of the first programs to offer Fisher. Notre Dame offered in January. But the in-state programs are battling a long list of blueblood national programs, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee, in addition to Big Ten programs like Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
“After my freshman year, I didn’t see any of this coming,” Fisher said. “I really didn’t have much insight into the recruiting process when it happened. I didn’t really see it. I mean, sometimes to this day, people are sometimes like, ‘You are going to the NFL,’ or this and that. I just don’t think like that. That’s the humble part of me, probably. I don’t ever want to get a big head or ever take it for granted.”
Fisher’s size clearly catches the attention of coaches. So, too, does his athleticism. Fisher can dunk a basketball from a standstill position under the basket. His bench press is already at 350 pounds, an especially impressive number for a player with his long arms.
“For somebody his size, you look at his mobility and hip flexibility and overall strength,” Bless said. “He’s done a good job making sure he has maintained himself to where he doesn’t get too heavy. He has a few pounds to trim and we’ll start running next week and work on that. But he’s done a great job of keeping his flexibility while also progressing quite a bit in his upper body strength.”
While the sky is the limit for Fisher’s future, he has no problem keeping a realistic perspective. The reason for that, in part, he attributes to a tragedy in his family. In the summer of 2011, his 10-year-old sister, Breonna, died when a virus attacked her heart. Breonna was a special needs child who was unable to talk or walk. But Blake, who was 8 when his sister died, vividly remembers his one-sided conversations with his sister.
“She was my big sister,” Fisher said. “Whenever I was mad at my mom or dad when I was little, I would go tell her and she would laugh. She was very close to my heart and she still is. I think about her every day.”
Blake, the son of Mark and Erika Fisher, said his sister’s short life offered him a different perspective than many of his peers. One of the best parts of his week is attending service at City of Hope Community Church.
“I never take anything for granted because of her,” he said. “Sometimes I still get irritated or frustrated and wonder why she had to leave like, ‘Why did God take her?’ But he does everything for a reason. I look at her as a role model and I know she’s always looking down on me. I wish she could be here to watch me play and see all of my success. But I know she is happy and in a better place now.”
Fisher plans to cut his list of schools to a more manageable number this summer – maybe 10, 12 or 15. He has plans to see Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Purdue this summer and would like to make game visits to Indiana and Georgia, potentially others, in the fall. A decision on a destination is probably another year away, at least.
Bless said the chance to play alongside linemen like Batton, Bowles and Luke Martindale was a big benefit to Fisher, who blossomed as a sophomore.
“It was tremendous for his development,” Bless said. “And for (senior-to-be) Kyle Niese, too. He has some FCS offers now. The experience those guys brought to the table in the meeting room certainly helped those two progress last year. Now we need them to do that for a bunch of young guys that we have coming in.”
When Fisher lists his goals for next season, he includes making Indiana Football Coaches Association Top-50 and raising his current grade-point average of 3.4 or 3.5.
“Those are top priorities for me,” he said. “I want to have a 3.7 or 3.8 going into college. And just making sure I’m quicker, faster and keep working hard in the weight room and classroom. Those probably sound like minor goals but they are major for me.”