Colts Rookie Cornerback Ray Fisher Trying to Play Role as Kick Returner
INDIANAPOLIS – Ray Fisher doesn't know what his NFL future holds, exactly.
Fisher, a cornerback from Indiana University, said what he does know is he will get a chance to earn a position returning kicks and/or punts for a perennially contending team, one with one of the NFL's most consistently potent offenses.
Fisher said he's grateful for that chance and said the chance is all he expects or wants.
Most imantly, he said, the chance is one of which he must take advantage.
"I really just have a chance to be a kick returner and put (Colts quarterback) Peyton (Manning) in the best situation possible," said Fisher, a seventh-round selection by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft and one of multiple rookies who will be profiled on Colts.com in the coming weeks.
"I'll go out every day, work hard and try to impress the coaches so I can try to earn the position."
That approach is one those who knew him said he took at Indiana.
And it's a reason he is where is now, with a chance to work his way into playing time at corner and kick/punt returner as the Colts prepare to open organized team activities next week.
Fisher (5-foot-9, 185 pounds), who played his first three collegiate seasons at wide receiver, started 19 games on offense, catching 118 passes for 1,070 yards and nine touchdowns. Indiana coaches approached him about moving to defense before this past season.
Fisher agreed to do so.
"Ray did a great job," Indiana coach Bill Lynch told the Hoosiers' public relations department. "We felt when we made the switch he would do just that. He was a very, very good cornerback in high school. We played him at receiver and he was a very, very good receiver.
"We had a need at corner and had some depth at receiver, so we asked him to make the move and he did it really well."
After moving to defense, Fisher started six of eight games this past season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in November. He made 40 tackles with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He also returned 17 kickoffs for a 37.4-yard average as a senior and had a 9.8-yard average on punt returns.
"He is a kick and punt returner as well as a very good corner," Colts President Bill Polian said after selecting Fisher. "He played obviously at a high level of competition and had a lot of success in the return game. We felt he was a dual-purpose guy, and a guy that could very likely make our team and contribute in a lot of ways as a 'gunner' on special teams and things of that nature, in addition to the return game.
"He can play corner," Polian added. "Even though he's on the small side, he's a good cover corner. He can cover people. He can run. He's a good gunner on covering punts. He can block kicks and he's a dual returner. He can fill a lot of roles. When you're looking for a player who is not necessarily going to be a starter, you want one who can fill a lot of roles.
"Ray can do that. We are happy to get him."
Said Lynch, "He is a great competitor and will always compete. When we talked to scouts after he made the move to cornerback, we said we felt he was a good enough player to make it on either side of the ball. Certainly, he has special talents as a returner as well."
What Fisher said the Colts got was a player not only willing to play special teams, but who very much wants to do so.
"I love playing special teams, even if I'm a starter," Fisher said. "When I played at Indiana, I was a starter, but I still loved playing all of the special teams. I want to go out and play the whole game. It's fun and I just want to put myself in great shape, so I can be able to do a lot of other things."
Fisher not only loves returning, he said he believes he is good at it – and believes he can excel professionally. One reason, he said, is he believes he has a knack for it, and another reason is he has confidence in himself – and his physical ability to play the role.
"It's not just running," Fisher said of returning kicks. "It's not being scared to hit the hole and just using your speed and athletic ability."
"If I get in the open, I don't think anyone can catch me."
Said Lynch, "Ray is a great competitor. All great competitors play with confidence, and Ray is a guy that plays with confidence and loves to compete against the best. As we look back at his career, he played well against the best Big Ten teams. The challenge of playing in the NFL is something he has always dreamed of, and I think he will adapt well. . . .
"Ray has a contagious personality. He always has a smile on his face and a bounce in his step."
How that smile will translate into professional productivity isn't yet known, but Fisher said given the opportunity, he is excited about what his NFL future might hold.
"I bring a lot of excitement," he said. "I know I can bring a lot of excitement to Indianapolis. Not saying they don't have great players, but they haven't had that big impact kick returner. I think I can bring that to the team.
"I think I have a chance to come in and be the kick returner, but I have to still do it off the field and on the field. I still have a ways to go."