Jake Fischer moved into the national spotlight before the 2013 season began.
The Ironwood Ridge High School product was one of six players in the country to join a lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the organization of wrongly using players’ likeness, names and images in video games and other products.
The linebacker was featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” with teammate Jake Smith and explained that he was thrusting himself into the public eye because he believed in the cause and didn’t think what the NCAA was doing was right.
A few weeks later, he arrived in Los Angeles for Pac-12 media day and was surrounded by reporters from all over the country. He again explained his reasoning, but made an assurance to his teammates, coaches and Arizona fans.
“This will not change how I play,” Fischer said in July. “This won’t be a distraction for me or my teammates; I will make sure of it. I will play as hard as I ever have, and this won’t be an issue during the season.”
He backed up those words over the next 13 games.
Fischer led the UA with 99 tackles despite not starting the Cal game because of an injury. He totaled 3½ tackles-for-loss, one sack, one fumble recovery and even returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown against UNLV.
He was also the unquestioned leader of Arizona’s defense, which improved drastically from last season.
Fischer was a game captain five times this season. Following the Wildcats’ loss to rival Arizona State, he was named one of the season captains along with defensive end Sione Tuihalamaka and wide receiver Terrence Miller.
“Whether you play offense or defense, you listen to Jake,” freshman receiver Nate Phillips said. “Guys like him are why we want to play so hard.”
The senior saved his best performance for his last game as a Wildcat.
Playing against Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl on Tuesday, Fischer posted a team-high 14 tackles (tying his career best) and registered his first sack since 2010. He even appeared at running back on the Wildcats’ final series when they were in victory formation. The UA won 42-19, its most lopsided bowl win since Jan. 1, 1994.
“We wanted to end the season on a high note for the seniors and leave our mark like last year’s seniors did,” Fischer said after the win over the Eagles. “We were able to do that. I love every one of those seniors like they’re my brothers. The young guys played as hard as they possibly could for us. I couldn’t be more proud of the way we performed.”
Fischer missed the 2011 season recovering from ACL surgery, but played in every UA game during his other four seasons — 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 — on campus.
He made 33 career starts and finished his career with 283 total tackles, 19th all-time in school history, one tackle ahead of Chris Singleton.
Before the bowl game, Fischer said he was trying not to think about the fact that it was going to be his final game as a Wildcat. After the game, he still wasn’t ready to deal with that reality.
“It still hasn’t really hit me yet,” Fischer said following the game. “It probably will in the next few hours, so we’ll see.”
Fischer picked a pretty good way to go out: A blowout win, a solid individual performance and a thumping of Doak Walker Award winner Andre Williams.
But he found a few flaws in it.
“They really shouldn’t have had any points until the last drive,” Fischer said. “We had some mental errors and guys that were out of position at times. We had penalties, too, and we gave them yards. They weren’t able to move the ball on us other than a little bit in the first half.
“But, yeah, that was a pretty good way to finish it.”