COLUMBIA — As the Missouri football team traveled to take on South Carolina on Sept. 22, injured offensive tackle Elvis Fisher prepared for the game in a new way.
He settled on his couch, grabbed hold of the remote control and ordered a pizza.
This was different, but it wasn’t exactly worse.
“I got to hang out at the house, and I ordered a pizza and I watched the game,” said Fisher, a sixth-year senior who was forced to stay home because of a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. “I don’t know if that’s an even trade, but it’s somewhere around there. I had fun.”
Now, the fun is over.
After injuring the right knee in Missouri’s Sept. 8 home loss to Georgia, Fisher has been a spectator for the past three games. Now, sporting only a black and gold brace on the injured right knee, he expects to play in some capacity against Vanderbilt.
“I kind of moved around a little bit last week. Didn’t tell you guys that, of course,” said Fisher, poking a lighthearted jab at the reporters at the team’s weekly media day. “Kept a secret. But I’ll move around in practice this week and ease my way back into it. I feel great. I mean, shoot, I’m expecting to play. I don’t know how long, but I’m expecting to play.”
That’s a refreshing new development for Fisher, who also missed the entire 2011 season with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. He rehabbed the injury for a full year, scratching and clawing to once again sit atop the depth chart heading into the 2012 season.
He made it one full game before hitting another setback.
But, after suffering a serious knee injury in the past, a strained MCL was far from the worst-case scenario for Fisher.
“It’s been pretty tough, just because I worked hard to get back from the other knee,” he said. “Just having to sit out for three weeks, I was upset about it when it first happened out there. But when they told me I didn’t need surgery, and I could be back in three to four weeks, I was ecstatic.”
Fisher downplays the current injury, explaining that the severity pales in comparison to last season’s torn patellar tendon.
Even so, he’s realistic about the challenge ahead. He doesn’t play golf or tennis. This is football, a contact sport. And at the line of scrimmage, brutal, violent contact is unavoidable.
“If I was a normal person, I’d be able to live a day-to-day life, but I have to go out there and move cars,” he said, likening defensive linemen to high-speed steel wrecking machines. “I have to get in a car wreck 80 times a game. I don’t think anybody can handle that.”
Fisher and Missouri’s coaching staff will see just how well the left tackle’s knees will handle it Saturday.
If he can return to form, though, Fisher — who started 40 straight games from 2008 to 2010 – will bring the experience and know-how that Missouri’s current line desperately lacks.
“Elvis is such a vital part of this offense and this team, not just because of his talent but because of the mental aspect. He’s been here forever. He knows what he’s doing,” redshirt sophomore center Mitch Morse said. “He’s just a great teammate, a great competitor and a great player.”
Junior quarterback James Franklin, who was frequently harassed and sacked five times in Missouri’s 21-16 win over Central Florida last Saturday, is also looking forward to seeing Fisher’s familiar face.
If he’s going to take a few hits, Franklin says, he might as well keep laughing while he’s doing it.
“He can really step up,” Franklin said Monday. “Just having him there, he’s a little bit more humorous, so I feel a bit more comfortable having him out there.”
Fisher will have to shed the remote control and pizza box in favor of a uniform Saturday night. He’s unsure if he will start or how long he will play, but for now, that hardly matters.
The shock of getting yet another chance to play a game with his friends hasn’t yet worn off.
“Apparently I’m playing football again,” he said, shrugging. “So I guess I’m just going to go out there and play football.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.