Can a Buffalo-area punter make a difference for the Orange?
Meet Jonathan Fisher – he’s one of the latest players to make a commitment to play for Syracuse University’s football team in 2011.
Fisher comes from Oakfield-Alabama High School, just north of Buffalo, with an enrollment of about 300.
Head coach Brian Palone graduated from Oakfield-Alabama High in 1998 and has recently returned to his alma mater after a playing career at SUNY Brockport.
He saw something special in Fisher, which is why he allowed the soon to be senior to only focus on punting and kicking.
“(Jonathan) is a very hard worker, and is very committed to the program. We’re in a small school and normally we play everyone at a different position but he just wanted to punt and kick. I allowed him to do that and he just really loves kicking and punting. The last year and a half or so that’s what he’s committed himself to. He’s worked a lot with his dad just traveling all over the place and trying to get offers,” Palone said.
That has certainly paid off now with the commitment to SU.
“We’re about 20 to 25 kids on our team and they have to go both ways so it makes it tough. He’s a kid that could play another position for us but he probably wouldn’t be playing football if it wasn’t for kicking and punting. I realized he had a lot potential so I just let him focus on that.”
Palone said Fisher had been attending camps lately trying to get exposure and get his name out there heading into his senior season. While at Syracuse’s camp last week, Fisher caught the eye of SU special teams coach Bob Casullo.
“A couple months ago he watched film on Jonathan and he liked what he say and he said he has a lot of potential. (Casullo) had a couple other kids he was looking at and was very honest with us and said that he was going to take his time and try to find the best punter he could. And then at the last camp he took the guys that he felt comfortable with had them compete, and Jonathan won out,” Palone said.
Randy Edsdall of UConn and Greg Schiano of Rutgers had several phone conversations about Fisher with Palone, but the head coach says Syracuse was in the lead – and not just because of football.
Last year was just Palone’s first at his head coach at Oakfield-Alabama. He had been an assistant coach for several seasons since finishing his playing career at Brockport, but never had to lead on the college recruiting process. Palone made sure academics were a primary focus for his star punter.
“It’s a whole different aspect in terms of trying to help him see about academics and not just to go there for football – I wanted to make sure that he had a good aspect on academics first.”
Palone says Fisher has done a lot of research about business schools and was very intrigued with the thought of being able to attend SU’s Whitman School of Management.
Oddly enough, the last high school that Palone coached at was named Marcus Whitman High School, located to the south of Rochester.
Fisher would not be the first big name punter to go on to D-1 football from O-A High. Virginia Tech just graduated a player by the name of Matt Waldron who was also from O-A, and Palone used that as precedent for Fisher.
“I know six years ago, Oakfield had a punter who punted at Virginia Tech. (In high school) he kicked and he punted and he played another position and (the current players) weren’t used to (Fisher not playing both ways). I had to take some grief from a few teachers, but I saw his potential and I knew what he had and I knew he could help us. I knew what a weapon we had.”
Now Fisher has his senior season to concentrate on, and won’t have to worry about being far away from home in the future either.
“The family is very close and I know he’s very close to his mother. He really wanted to find somewhere that was close to home,” Palone said.
And now Fisher’s got exactly what he wanted.
Posted: Mike Couzens