HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Pac-Five defensive end Russel Fisher is the Mid-Pacific senior class president. College recruiters are starting to notice his potential on the gridiron.
Prez plots his future
Pac-Five's talented defensive end Fisher is a D-I qualifer with little exposure
BETWEEN the daily dialogue in and out of classes, Russel Fisher has yet to conquer one field of exploration.
The senior class president at Mid-Pacific Institute has done the Matt Leinart. With most of his required classes done, the 6-foot-1 1/2, 250-pound defensive end decided to fill out his course load with the most dreaded of "dumb-jock" classes: Ceramics.
"You get to be creative. You can picture what you want to do and you work on it," said Fisher, who carries a 3.0 grade-point average and has a 1650 on the new SAT.
Those classroom numbers make him an NCAA Division I qualifier, a big help for Fisher, who starred for Pac-Five as perhaps the most relentless defensive end in Interscholastic League of Honolulu football.
He has remained under the radar of most college recruiters. His videotape has only gone out to them recently, and since Pac-Five's games were not televised this season, there are even coaches locally who have yet to see him play.
"I think he could be another Shawn Lauvao," said Doris Sullivan, director of Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance which has helped hundreds of local student-athletes connect with universities at no cost.
Lauvao was off the radar of many recruiters last year but, once his talent was given exposure, more than a dozen D-I schools came in full force. The former Farrington lineman now plays at Arizona State.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, Pac-Five football had incredible potential five years ago, according to Fisher.
"We had a future and the potential to take a state championship, but other players didn't feel that way and transferred out," Fisher recalled. "Pretty much everyone else changed schools."
Fisher felt rooted to the Wolfpack program, to his Mid-Pacific campus.
"I wouldn't play for any other team. I could've transferred to Punahou for my ninth-grade year," he said. "But I had a good time at Pac-Five."
Fisher's upbeat personality was a big plus for a program that struggled in the state's toughest football league.
"It was difficult at first because you're a varsity team and you expect a certain level of ability and maturity," he said. "But when you have so many sophomores, you realize they're not used to the speed of the game. In the future, I know they're gonna be a good team."
His ability and leadership hasn't gone unnoticed here.
"Ron Lee (University of Hawaii assistant) has been calling me up, asking for tape, my SAT score and transcripts," Fisher said. "He likes the way I play, my intensity, I guess. How I run up and down the field. How I don't give up even if the play's 20 yards downfield."
The biggest boost, aside from sending video out earlier this month, was a word from Farrington's highly-recruited lineman, Whitley Fehoko. When the Governor player was asked by Utah coaches who his toughest foe was, Fehoko mentioned Fisher, whom he battled in the HUB Goodwill Senior Classic. Soon after, Utah assistant coach Kalani Sitake was at the front door of the Fishers' home in Kailua.
"It was a good experience. It was exciting to actually have a coach at my house," Fisher said. "He was a nice guy, straightforward.
"He thought I had good potential, and that he'd like to give me a scholarship if it works out."
In other words, the Utes have made their scholarship offers. If enough of the prospects decline, Fisher will move up the back-up list.
"I would say I shouldn't be on a backup list, but the fact that they found me so late, I can't blame them," Fisher said. "My mom thinks I'm the best, of course.
PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Before he got involved in student government, Fisher started a petition to change a Mid-Pacific rule banning beards. The effort eventually failed.
Christine and Ronald Fisher have done what they could for their youngest child.
Ronald, a postal clerk, works nights and made it to only two games.
"My mom was there cheering for all of the games," Fisher said. "She's the one in the stands everyone can hear. She's very positive.
The odd thing about Fisher's lack of exposure is that he is one the best defensive ends in the state when it comes to lateral movement and non-stop hustle. He chased down Iolani's speedy running back, Mike Hirokawa, twice in the backfield in one game.
Yet, without video (Fisher's mom would have done it, but is "technologically illiterate"), there was no way to get the footage to colleges.
Until he gets a break, Fisher is content. And busy.
FROM THE START of his day, when he leaves Kailua, to the end of wrestling practice and the return trip home, Fisher is a study in efficiency and hard work.
Both parents are retired Marines. Ronald was in for 22 years, Christine for over four years.
"I think his work ethic comes from his dad," said Christine, who is a massage therapist. "His perspective in life, having a good outlook, taking a bad situation and making it positive, comes from me.
"His dad helps him with schoolwork, and I help with common sense and fun."
Russel learned quickly about priorities at home.
"Poor grades are unacceptable," he said. "My dad knows our academics are going to take us far. Once a month, we have a family dinner and go eat at a nice place."
Fisher and his older brother, former Punahou standout Stan, prefer Benihana's.
"We have the most fun just being together as a family and talking," said Fisher, whose gift of gab has served Mid-Pacific well.
"My college counselor noticed that I liked talking to people. I wanted to do something different. I always wanted to be (class) president, but I never really tried. Then I realized I'm not gonna be in high school after this year, so I wanted to make it the best senior year possible," said Fisher, who had only one opponent in the election.
"I thought it would be easy, that I'd walk in there and have it, but it's a whole 'nother story when you're in front of people. I wish I'd prepared more. The big problem for me was officer meetings were during (football) camps, so at the beginning I was out of touch. But I had to start giving up a little bit of sports time to make meetings.
Coach Kip Botelho was understanding.
"He said, 'Do what you gotta do,' " Fisher said. "He knew it wasn't a bogus excuse."
For the most part, the presidency has been smooth.
"There's nothing really to complain about. I ask people to tell me if there's something that needs changing and I'll try and do that if it's do-able," he said. "But nobody's complained except for things I have no power to change."
ONE OF THOSE ISSUES was facial hair. Though MPI students are permitted to grow mustaches and sideburns, no goatees or beards are permitted. Fisher, who hates shaving, wanted to grow a stylish "chin-strap" beard last year.
"I tried to grow it, but I was denied," said Fisher, who went about a protest in a democratic fashion. Though he wasn't yet class president, he drew up a petition sheet, but that didn't get far.
"I tried to talk to teachers, but they said even a petition won't get much done."
His persistence reached a limit.
"I've grown to accept it. I guess that's part of the responsibility of being a president. Certain things you have to live with," Fisher said.
It wasn't all bad. The school allowed him to grow a beard out for a week so he could attend the Winter Ball with the look he wanted.
Fisher really wants to play in college, but he barely talks about it. He just takes care of business one task at a time. He won the 275-pound class at the Maui Invitational Wrestling Tournament last week.
There's finally free time to relax and hang out with family, his girlfriend, even his buddy Paul Kiat. The Pac-Five center faced tons of outstanding linemen this year, but considers Fisher in another realm.
"He's the best one. Facing him at practice every day forced me to get better," Kiat said.
Helping people around him get better is something Fisher enjoys. He smiles about it, but only off camera. He has the same passion for ceramics as he does for American Justice and Economics classes.
"It's super fun. You get to learn your system, so when things happen, you understand why it happens.
"It prepares you for life."