COLUMBIA, Mo. – The cracks at Missouri’s senior citizen on the offensive line are best served cold, with a pinch of recognition and respect. The verbal jabs are swung in honest fun – in part because Elvis Fisher, a sixth-year left tackle, enjoys a good grin himself.
“Elvis,” coach Gary Pinkel said with a straight face, “has been around here for about 10 years.”
“His technique is always on point,” junior right tackle Justin Britt said, his expression as serious as can be. “That just comes with reps and (being) a 10th-year senior.”
Ah, the trials of being the group’s gray hair. That’s Fisher, 23, all 6 feet 5, 300 pounds of him. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native is back smacking pads after sitting out the 2011 season because of a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee sustained during a preseason practice. There’s nowhere Memorial Stadium’s old man would rather be.
Fisher has returned in time for the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference baptism. That’s a huge headline for the black and gold as it prepares to maneuver through a schedule that includes Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. His presence, made possible by a medical hardship waiver granted in February, has a sense of deja vu attached as well.
He was voted a team captain … again.
He has peppered practice sessions with his wit … again.
He will approach this season with a carefree attitude like it is his last … again.
Forget talk of SEC pressure. Fisher is here for his pleasure.
“I’m going to have fun out here,” said Fisher, an honorable mention all-Big 12 selection for the 2010 season. “I told everyone that I’m going to have fun out here. I don’t care how mad the coaches get or who yells at me or how many games we lose or win. I’m going to have fun regardless. That’s what I want to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
He’s going to make Missouri better in the process. He started all 40 games at left tackle from 2008 to 2010. Blue-chip wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham’s signing was hailed as one of Missouri’s top off-season coups. In reality, though, news of Fisher’s return will make a larger difference this fall.
The reason? Three players are back who received starts on the offensive line last season (Britt and guards Jack Meiners and Travis Ruth). The group helped the Tigers rank ninth in the country in rushing offense with an average of 244 yards per game. Already, the veteran has meshed with the fresher faces.
Britt, for one, senses a looser atmosphere compared with this time last year. It’s hard not to notice with a laissez-faire leader whose Twitter bio (@ElvisFisher72) includes the hashtag “#6thYearProblems.”
“Last year, it felt like it was more serious,” Britt said. “Not that it isn’t (serious) this year, but this year it is calmer. Elvis was there last year, but he was kind of in a down spot. The leadership in the O-line has picked up big this year. There are more vocal leaders this year.”
Vocal leadership? That’s something the vet can handle. Consider Britt’s response to a question about his favorite Fisher witticism: “I can’t really point out one. There’s always a new one. I’m waiting for the new one for the day.”
Or consider the fact that the son of a radio broadcaster filmed a fake news conference published July 31 on YouTube that included these “demands” before reporting to preseason camp:
*New soap in the locker room. (“I’m tired of that cheap 99-cent Wal-Mart soap,” Fisher said. “I’ve got old, dry skin as it is. Got to get some Dove or some Axe in there.”)
*A personal Segway, the two-wheeled transportation device. (“I don’t want to have to walk to the practice field. I don’t want to have to walk to the dining hall. I don’t want to have to walk to the weight room.”)
*His last name replaced by his Twitter handle on the back of his jersey.
*No sweating on game days before kickoff. (“I want to have five or six of my personal assistants on game day to assist me getting ready so I don’t have to sweat.”)
*New Mizzou football shirts. (“Look at what I’m wearing. I’m wearing an AT&T Cotton Bowl shirt. That was back in – when was that – ’08, Jan. 1? My redshirt year? I haven’t got a new shirt since. It’s ridiculous. I need some new shirts.”)
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Fisher said later. “It can be ended like the snap of a finger. It’s a rough game, but it’s a fun game. You’ve got to work hard at it, but sometimes something bad happens, and you’ve got to move on. If you can’t move on, it’s kind of bad, too. So don’t take anything for granted. I play every play as hard as I can and enjoy it while I’m out here.”
He’s enjoying it, all right. Who says the young have all the fun?