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December 31, 2014

Jimbo Fisher


THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, everyone, for joining us.  We're here today with Florida State University head Coach Jimbo Fisher.
Coach, I would like you to give an opening remark about being here at the Rose Bowl game.
COACH FISHER:  It's a great honor and privilege to be here.  Like I say, you don't get the opportunity in our part of the country and our leagues to have the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl, and to be out here two years in a row, it's quite remarkable.  It's a privilege in which we take very seriously, and like I say, I don't know if I've ever walked in a stadium like I said before and the locker room and feel the history of the game, the granddaddy of them all.  You feel that history when you walk into the locker room.  It's an honor to be there.  There's no doubt.
Our players feel that, and it's a great time for us right now.  The significance of the last 29 games that's been a privilege to really coach our players.  Everybody talks about the last 29 games, but I think the first 39 games are the key to the last 29 games.  I think we grew as an organization.  We went through trials and tribulations.
There's a lot of great players who helped set the tone and create the culture in which allowed us to play like we have played for the last 29 games, the Christian Ponders, Lonnie Pryors, Vince Williams, Dustin Hopkins, EJ, Lamarcus Joyner‑‑ all those guys laid the groundwork for what we've been able to accomplish right now.  Our thanks go out to them too.  They're a huge part of what we've been able to do.  We had to learn to crawl before we ran, and now we're dealing with a lot of success and handle it very well.  Very proud of our players, the way we manage and compartmentalize all the situations and the things that go.  People ask all the time, why are you able to handle those things?  I think the more you're in those situations, the more you're able to do it.  We've had game day a lot at our games, National Championship games, Orange Bowl, ACC‑type championship games.  All of those things have led to where we are right now.
It's a great honor to play an Oregon team like here.  We're looking forward to this challenge.  We know it's a heck of challenge.  They've got a great team.  We've got a great team.  It ought to be fun.

Q.  Jimbo, you mentioned how the program has grown.  You had some tough losses early on as a head coach.  Where do you feel you have grown the most in your in‑game coaching and the way you make adjustments for the second half?
COACH FISHER:  I think, as the game goes on, any time you do something more consistently, you're able to learn yourself as much as you are your kids.  But also making sure you're tuned into your kids and doing a really good job in the off‑season it's taken to create a culture for them to understand where I come from and me to understand where they come from.  It's all part of that.
I think those first 39 games allowed the adjustments and the things we've been able to do in the last 29.

Q.  Jimbo, you're at the point now in your program where you're losing a lot of guys every year to the NFL.  How do you sustain the level of play that you've had the last two years knowing you're going to lose guys every year without a dip?  Very few programs are able to do that.
COACH FISHER:  I think, one, it goes back to the culture and the expectations in our kids and what the older guys have left to the younger guys and also our assistant coaches.  We have a tremendous staff that understand how to develop these players at an early age, and I think we play a lot of our freshmen.  If you see this year, a lot of our guys as true freshmen, even though we have a very experienced team, and we'll lose anywhere from 9 to 12 to 14 guys to the league again this year.
Those guys, those coaches, we've played guys.  We've developed them early.  It's not like they're coming in just totally raw.  As the culture's been created with the older guys, what the expectations are, but the expectations are not about winning, but about working and about practicing and about preparation and all the things that go into winning, not about the winning.
We don't talk about the results.  We're not worried about the results.  It's about how we do things on a day‑to‑day basis to create great habits.  That's where our assistant coaches and our leadership of our team year in and year out has been able to help us that way.

Q.  Mark Helfrich talked earlier about how his staff needs to approach recruiting.  He said you don't have to go very far, more than a couple hours to find great talent down in the Tallahassee and Florida area.
COACH FISHER:  Miami is nine hours.

Q.  What could you say about the way that Oregon recruits that they're able to sustain a program at such a high level, and they have guys coming in from as far away as Ohio down into Texas, down in the far reaches of the country.
COACH FISHER:  It's true.  We have a great base in the state of Florida and Georgia, but we reach out also to D.C., California, Texas.  We're all over the country too as a national brand name.  But they're in a state that doesn't have a large number of high school players or top recruits, but they've done it with facilities, money, presentation, uniforms.
What you have to create is a niche, and for people who want to come from long distances to come to a university, why are they coming there?  There's something that you have that someone else‑‑ if you're bypassing all these places, could it be facilities?  Could it be uniforms?  They also win a lot of football games.
Understand something, the first and foremost thing in recruiting is guys want to go somewhere they can be successful, get a great education, be around good people, and have an opportunity to play in the league.  That's what players want to do.  They've been able to do it.  We've been able to do it.
It's quite remarkable what they have been able to do, but they've created that niche, and they ran with it.

Q.  Just wondering when you started bringing prepared notes to your press conferences and why?
COACH FISHER:  Always have.  Always bring reminders and things.  If you have an open book test, why not use the open book?  Daggum.  I don't claim to be no 36 ACT now.

Q.  You've been around a bunch of quarterbacks who have gone on to the NFL.  Beyond just a lot of film study, can you kind of elaborate on Jameis' football smarts and maybe him being wired a little differently than other guys you've had.
COACH FISHER:  I don't know how he's wired, what he sees.  He can process what the great ones see.  He sees angles, he anticipates.  First of all, he's an unbelievable competitor, and he's unbelievably tough.  He'll stand there and take a shot right in the mouth and don't care, 310‑pound guy running at him, he'll stand there and take a shot because, if it makes his team be successful, he's willing to do that.  He's willing to sacrifice his body, his mind, everything for the team.
And his gifts of anticipation, not just arm talent, but hand talent.  His ability to adjust the ball, like the great pitchers.  They can throw it 98 and put it on the block, and they can throw it 91, and they can throw it 84.  The placement, the understanding, he sees angles, and just the game itself makes sense.
Like I say, I don't know if I've ever been around a guy that when he comes off‑‑ I've quit questioning what he does on the field and why he does it.  Even when he does it wrong, he can come off and tell you exactly what he saw, what happened, and why it happened.  I'll bet in a 98 percent rate, when he comes off, and he can process so much information.  His intelligence level is off the charts, and the body of information he can not only process but retain.

Q.  Just all week long the players have been asked what it's like to finally be an underdog, and just for you to go through talking to your players this week, if you're going to use that as motivation or what you're going to say this week?
COACH FISHER:  I've never thought of ourselves as an underdog.  Our team has never walked on the field and thought we were an underdog.  I never knew we were a favorite, all those other games.
I don't look at that.  We look at ourselves as we've got to go play well.  We have a great opponent, and if we play well, we'll have success.  We don't really look at those things.
I know that may sound cliche, but we don't.  We just play and control what we can control.

Q.  You've been asked this before, but how do you prepare for a possible championship game while you're getting ready for this game?  Do you have GAs looking at it?
COACH FISHER:  We already have Ohio State and Alabama broken down because, when you get back, you've got to hit the ground running.  We have to prepare for that.  If it doesn't, it doesn't and we'll have great film to study in the off‑season.  But if it does, you have to hit the ground running with all your breakdowns and all those things ready to go.
We've broken both teams down, and that's why you have to have the support staff around to get ready to roll.

Q.  What are some of the challenges of replacing‑‑ following up a legendary coach and getting out from under his shadow when you're, as you said, still learning yourself as a coach?
COACH FISHER:  I think‑‑ I don't think you ever stop learning yourself as a coach.  If you coach 40 years, I think you still learn from yourself as a coach.  I think, if you ever‑‑ if good enough gets good enough, then you're in trouble.
The thing that I think‑‑ that I thought I had to do was be myself.  I don't believe people follow people who try to emulate people, who try to be like other people, but a lot of my core values and traditions were from Coach Bowden years ago when I was around him.  I learned from all the coaches that I was under, and I've taken things that I've liked and disliked from everyone.  But at the same time, I don't ever think, when something happens, what would Coach Bowden do here or Coach Saban do here, Coach Miles do here?  I don't ever think like that.  I think what should we do?
I think you learn from people, but the key is you've got to put your own stamp, your own personality on your own program.  If you do it with class and dignity, hopefully success will follow.

Q.  Of all the things you've heard, said, and written about Jameis, what's the biggest misperceptions that you think people have about him?
COACH FISHER:  That he's selfish, that he's a bad guy.  He's an unbelievably kindhearted person.
I had a guy the other day, he lived‑‑ he had a little house in the neighborhood where he lived, where him and a couple of people lived.  The neighborhood kids, the Saturday before we were reporting on Sunday‑‑ the day of the Heisman, as a matter of fact, because he finished up an exam on Friday night and had practice on Sunday.  So we had that one off day.
He spent an hour and a half or two hours playing backyard football with about 12 kids in the neighborhood.
I mean, the guy is such a kindhearted people guy.  He loves people.  He loves to be around people, not from a standpoint of I'm Jameis Winston.  He generally likes people.  He's fun to be around.  He's genuine.  He's honest.  He's just a good guy.  He really is.

Q.  Jimbo, you've been through an awful lot of close games, much more so than the year before.  Does that breed any special confidence that, if you're in that type of situation late in the game‑‑
COACH FISHER:  I think any time you go through a situation‑‑ because every coach says, if we're behind, this is what we're going to do.  If we're in this situation, this is what we're going to do.  If you do it, man, we can do this.  It's like saying, can we win big?  Can we win an ACC Championship?  Can we win‑‑ any time you go through a situation and you have success, it definitely breeds confidence, especially if you go back and study why you do it and understand why you were successful, the mind set you had, so you can repeat it.
I think that's a lot of things that we do in sports‑‑ and athletes are like that.  Sometimes you ask a guy, why did you have success?  I don't know, I just played good.  Let's go back and think why you played well.  How did you prepare?  What did you think?  How did you sleep?  What did you eat?  How much film did you watch this week?  You try to get guys to repeat performance because that's what athletics is about, consistency.  Any time you get in those situations, study why you had success, remember the mindset, remember the temperament, and try to duplicate it if you have to.

Q.  Coach, Jalen Ramsey was a little under the weather.  How is he today?
COACH FISHER:  He's fine.  He had a little bug.  We held him down, give him a little chance to rest, and he'll be good to go.

Q.  Now you've spent three weeks looking at Oregon on tape prepping for them.  Obviously, they have a fantastic quarterback, but what else?  What are the other couple things that really impressed you the most?
COACH FISHER:  I say this.  Mariota is Mariota.  Marcus is tremendous, one of the best college football players ever.  The guy's tremendous.  They have a great offensive line.  They're very dynamic in the backfield.  They have great speed outside.
On defense, those ends and defensive out backers are long, 6'6", 6'7" guys.  Nose guards are very physical.  Backers play downfield as far as being able to take on the run.  They read very well, get back and pass.  The corners can run.  There's very few holes and weaknesses.  Special teams, they cover because they're so athletic and can run.
They're a very good football team.  People say what are you going to do to have success?  You have to play well in all three phases for all 60 minutes.  They play well, take care of the ball, and they're a very well‑coached football team.

Q.  If we could get away from football for a second.  Talk a little bit about FA, your connection to the Frohnmayers, and when it comes to Ethan, how hard is it something as a father to know this is something you can't answer just yet?
COACH FISHER:  It's your motivation every day.  It's why you get out of bed.  If you think you have a bad day, there's a lot of other things in this world that are a lot tougher than coaching a football game or worrying about who's winning or losing.  The Frohnmayers are people we reached out to when we found out that Ethan had Fanconi anemia.  They lost two children to the disease.  They have a third daughter who has it right now.  They had three.  It was a great learning tool and a great resource for us.
Like I say, I've never taken that bracelet off since we discovered.  It reminds me every day.  Every time I think I've got a problem or think I've got something, it puts it back in perspective.  Hopefully, the platform they've had and the platform we've had that we can create enough publicity for the disease to bring out an awareness to it.
And we've been able to raise‑‑ this past year we raised over $1 million for our foundation to be able to donate back, and they're making tremendous strides in the disease for longevities of life and hopefully for a cure down the road.
It's hope.  It puts things in perspective, there's no doubt.  When you come home from a tough day and you see that smile on his face, it makes‑‑ it gives you a lot of energy to go do whatever you've got to do.

Q.  Recruiting is so hard anyway.  I'm just wondering‑‑ and I asked Mark this.  Do you think this tournament, the new tournament, will intensify recruiting, will put even more pressure on coaches to get better players.  Can it get any more intense?
COACH FISHER:  That's what I was going to say, how can it get any more intense?  It's crazy with the social media and all the services and things out there that people have.  It's an amazing thing how recruiting, to me, has taken a life‑‑ it's its own season.  It may get more coverage than the season does once it's over with and how it goes.  It's amazing.
I don't know if it will put any more on it because you always want to be in the National Championship, now you're in the Final Four.  But it's not going to make it go away, I promise you that.  That's the lifeline of all programs is recruiting.  You have to find your niche and what you have and for these kids to be able to develop and get what they want out of it.
That's kind of what it's really turned into, getting what they want educational from a personal standpoint, and are they getting developed and winning games?
Recruiting is a battle.  These games are tough, but I'm not sure recruiting is not tougher.

Q.  Your team hasn't scored a lot of touchdowns in the second half in some of these comebacks the last few weeks.  From that perspective, would you still be in this situation if you had an average kicker versus a guy like Roberto Aguayo?
COACH FISHER:  I was trying to think about what you said.  I mean, Roberto's special.  He's as good as I've ever been around.  The clutch‑‑ his work ethic.  People don't realize how good an athlete he is.  That's the key.  Kickers have to have great balance to be consistent.  He can do that, along with great leg strength and how he works.
But having him definitely affects how you call the game, the plays you call, when you hit the coverage zone and the range he has and the consistency, it allows you to coach the game differently when you have a dominant kicker like we have.  He's a great player, I know that.

Q.  You speak so highly of Jameis and all your other players.  Does it bother you that you guys have this, quote, most hated team in college football label?  And also, the situation yesterday at practice with Payton, could that help change perceptions?
COACH FISHER:  We're going to do what we do every day.  And perception, we can't help what people think of us.  We keep doing what we do.  We believe in our system.  We believe we have better kids than we have players.  I've said that all along.
When you look at facts of things and go to the facts and not of people's opinions and agendas we want to push, it ought to change because we have tremendous kids.
But you can't change how people do.  You've just got to keep doing things right.  Over time, people will see you do the right things and stand up for the right things.
When you try to force someone to think a way‑‑ like I said, it's like coaching to me.  If I try to be somebody I'm not, it doesn't work.
We're going to continue to do things the right way, the Florida State way, and we believe that's definitely the right way and be good people, and in time we'll see.

Q.  Just to follow up on the question about preparing for a potential next game, would you have that available to you like on the flight back?
COACH FISHER:  Oh, yeah.  You can watch the game and pull up an iPad or a computer right there and be able to watch cut‑ups or the team games or whatever you need to do on the way back, yes.

Q.  Can you describe how much Rashad means to this team, not just in terms of his relationship with Jameis, but what he means for the younger guys heading into a game this big?
COACH FISHER:  I say this so much‑‑ and I hate to use it because the guy was an icon, but he's like Derek Jeter to me.  All the guys behind the scenes watch what he does, how he carries himself.  He doesn't need the limelight.  He doesn't need the media, but every big moment, every big situation, he's always the guy making plays, and it's in significant parts of the game or big games.  He'd just as well, okay, you want to talk to him.  If you don't, I won't.
He's not a real vocal guy.  He says it quietly.  Now, two or three times in games this year when he thought he had to speak up, he did.  He's the kind of guy, whatever I have to do for our team to be successful.  He's a tremendous student, person.  He's just the epitome of, to me, what‑‑ you know, if he's your son, what you want him to be and how he carries himself.  He's an unbelievably class act to go along with a tremendous player.  I can't say enough good things about him.

Q.  The four coaches in the playoffs, you, obviously the other two guys in the Sugar Bowl, won National Championships.  Mark taking over a program as a first time head coach, something similar to what you've had to do on a big stage at a major program.  What impresses you most about what he has done there with the transition?
COACH FISHER:  Mark seems to be himself too.  I don't see him trying to be Chip Kelly or Mike Bellotti or anything else.  I see him trying to be Mark.  That's why he is such a successful coach, and he's having success because he's being himself.  To have that consistency and block it off and keep pushing the heights in their pursuit of the first National Championship has been tremendous.
To me, it's Mark being Mark.  As I say, being comfortable in his own skin.

Q.  What do you feel is the biggest advantage your team gained from playing in this game a year ago?
COACH FISHER:  I think, from this point of it, handling all the media, the expectation of how you got to act, what you got to do, when you got to be here.  Your time constraints, when you pull back, and how to manage your time.  And the familiarity of being in that stadium definitely helps.  I know they have familiarity, but we do too.
Any time you go somewhere, at least you've been there, and you've had success.  I think it brings back memories and puts you in a good mindset.

Q.  Jimbo, playing off of a question you had a little earlier, do you get a little tired of having to defend this team, being character, be it the resume and the quality of the wins, as opposed to it being celebrated for what it has accomplished?
COACH FISHER:  Not really.  I hate it for the kids as far as if they have to answer those questions.  But as a coach, that's part of it.  You have to deal with whatever is out there.  For the kids, I know how good of kids they really are and what they've accomplished.  It's the second longest winning streak in the modern era for college football.  The record is 34, and I think it's second, am I right?  Since 1970, something like that, what they've been able to accomplish and what they've been able to do in a great conference in big games and big moments.
We've won 14 in a row at home.  We've won 18 in a row away from home.  So what they've been able to accomplish is tremendous.  When I look back at it, it will be, but they may grow as people from this, very much so.
Like you say, everything in life isn't fair.  What I mean by that is what you think is right, it doesn't matter.  You have to keep doing what's right.  It tests your core beliefs of how you go about your business that you do things right.  Whatever people say, if you continually do them right, people will see that you're a class act.

Q.  Mark says he enjoys practice and likes the kids to have fun.  Tell me about what you do at practice.  Maybe something you did this week that was fun and maybe showed your sense of humor a little bit.
COACH FISHER:  Played football.  Football is fun for us.  We love to practice.  We love to go play football.  It's the same every day.  We joke, clown.  If they're wrong, we get on them.  If they're right, we're celebrating and having fun.  We have a lot of fun at practice.
Just like joking, clowning.  There's nothing, any one particular thing.  We don't draw it up that way.  We just take the days as they come and handle it.

Q.  Jimbo, you've said that Mario Edwards is a rare guy who can be explosive at 300‑plus pounds.  Now that he's lost this weight, what have you seen from him?  Has it changed the way he looks at practice?
COACH FISHER:  I think more explosive plays, you know what I mean?  He's dropped some weight, and he wanted to be able to move better because he's playing on the edge a little more, inside and outside, he felt comfortable.  Even though last year he played on the edge well, but he just felt like he felt comfortable there.  Conditioning, endurance, those types of things, he's really grown.

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