PULLMAN – Adam and Jolene Fisher had their eyes trained on the football as it spun through the calm air. Just as their heads turned left to right, a crimson blur wearing No. 88 bolted past his defender and tracked down the flying object. Rodrick Fisher made the basket catch as he stepped over the goal line, and lifted both hands into the air as Easop Winston Jr. made a mad dash to the back end of the end zone, where the receivers exchanged a celebratory chest bump.
Jolene always counted on getting her son’s first college touchdown on video, but it’s never easy to anticipate the pandemonium, joy and emotion packed into such a precious moment.
“I was recording it,” she said, “then I went ‘Wooooo!’ so I didn’t even get it on video. I was so mad.”
The video may be history, but the memory lasts forever.
In that moment, of the 27,228 fans in attendance, nobody else could relate to the gratification the Fishers felt after seeing their son achieve a personal milestone years in the making.
Well, nobody outside of Section 4.
Fisher could only take half-credit for the 41-yard bomb that put the Cougars ahead 7-0 after just five snaps against New Mexico State. The player who uncorked the touchdown pass also had a large group of family members and close friends in attendance. As it was for Fisher, Saturday’s game was the first career start for Anthony Gordon, and as Adam and Jolene Fisher celebrated their son’s first career touchdown, Ryan and Gina Gordon got the same special experience a few rows up.
“I knew he’d be good,” Ryan said at halftime, his son already up to four touchdown passes, 330 yards and a 95 percent completion rating. “I didn’t know it was going to be this good.”
“(My) dad teared up a little bit,” Ryan added.
Ryan came to the game outfitted in a custom white Washington State jersey with Anthony’s last name and No. 18 stitched to the back. The shirt was a Father’s Day gift from last year. Grandfather Scott Gordon proudly sported an anthracite WSU jersey screen-printed with the quarterback’s number.
Mother Gina Gordon has already splurged for the entire family and ordered jerseys in bulk. By the time the group arrived back in Pacifica, California, from the season opener, she was optimistic that another 12 anthracite No. 18 jerseys would be sitting on the doorstep.
“I hope they’re there when I get home,” she said.
Though Fisher’s opportunity to star in the Pac-12 Conference came three years before Gordon’s, both overcame unique obstacles to reach the point they’re at now – starters for 22nd-ranked WSU and key assets for Mike Leach’s explosive Air Raid offense.
Before Adam Fisher invited Rodrick to live with Jolene and daughters Ally and Sydney, the WSU receiver skipped from home to home, sleeping on couches and spending portions of his teenage years homeless in Spokane. He enrolled at East Valley and joined the school’s football and track teams, standing out as an Army All-American receiver for the Knights – who were then coached by Adam – in the fall, and an all-state sprinter in the spring.
Fisher never ran the hurdles at EV, but he encountered a few more when he arrived in Pullman. The “X” receiver tore his labrum in the early stages of the 2018 season, keeping him off the football field until the following spring.
“When he was injured, you’re not allowed to be in the position meetings, you’re kind of separated from the team, and that was really hard on his psyche to be able to get back into the game,” Jolene said. “Not just the game, but be in practice, be in meetings and participate and contribute has been the world to him. It’s changed his whole psyche.”
Adam and Jolene live only 80 miles away from their son, so they’ve been able to give Fisher the college experience without hovering while still being close enough to monitor his growth and maturity. Last season, that included learning from what may have been his only freshman mistake. Fisher pleaded guilty to a “baby DUI” in the fall of 2018 after being arrested and charged for driving with alcohol in his system on Aug. 24.
Some errors are worse than dropping a football, but Fisher has learned from all of them.
“From the journey we initially started, for him to be in this position to start as a redshirt freshman and for him to, just, he’s worked so hard to get to this level on so many fronts,” Adam said. “Obviously football-wise, but academically and maturity. He’s a man now. It’s pretty special.”
Fisher’s goals for the 2019 football season included beating out fellow “X” receivers Tay Martin and Calvin Jackson Jr. for the starting job – ambitious, considering the edge in experience and production the junior and redshirt senior had on Fisher.
“He just goes, ‘Dad, I’m beating those guys out,’ ” Adam said. “And I was just like, OK. I just said, ‘When you get your opportunity, you’ve just got to seize the moment.’ … The crack got open and he seized the moment from then on.”
Adam and Jolene have it better than most WSU parents living in Spokane, but they travel to every road game, too. Adam made special concessions that allowed it to happen, stepping away from high school football and his job at EV when Rodrick joined the Cougars.
“I asked him, ‘What do you want out of this next year?’ ” Jolene said. “He goes, ‘I just want to show the world what I can do. Nobody knows yet. I just want to show everybody what I’m capable of.’ He’s doing it, and we’re just so proud of him.”
Fisher caught three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown vs. NMSU.
“Everything I’ve went through to get here has kind of prepared me for the position I’m at right now,” Fisher said in the postgame press conference. “That’s very important, to understand my struggles and the beauty in all of the struggles, and I’m just grateful that I had those, and it makes me the man I am today.”
If there was anyone claiming to be louder and prouder than the Fishers, they were sitting in rows 16 and 17, whooping and screaming every time Gordon unleashed a throw. There were many of those – the QB was 29-of-35 with 420 yards and five touchdowns – so the Gordon camp never truly quieted down until Anthony was pulled late in the third quarter with WSU leading 48-7.
He was replaced by Gage Gubrud, the Eastern Washington graduate transfer most pegged to beat Gordon out for the starting job. Ryan, Gina and younger brothers Nate and Dominic saw every piece written about Gubrud through fall camp, including the transfer’s inclusion on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list.
Now that Gordon has the job, “He’s not going to let anyone touch it,” Gina said. “He’s not going to let anyone in his reach.”
The clump of immediate and extended family members sitting in the “Cougfam” area of Section 4 numbered about 15. Five of Gordon’s longtime friends sat elsewhere and watched after making last-second plans to road-trip from the Bay Area to the Palouse after getting off work Friday afternoon.
“Everyone that’s been here for him his whole life,” Ryan said. “We have a pretty crazy, close family. I mean, it wasn’t uncommon to have this many people at a Little League game. For everyone to see us together, it means a lot.”
Gordon was laser-focused on the job at hand, hitting every receiver in the chest and making the right checks at the line of scrimmage. Afterward, the QB acknowledged the presence of the 20 family members and friends who were scattered through the crowd, wearing his number and cheering his every completion.
“That’s awesome, always having support,” Gordon said. “Coug nation is great support as well, so having my friends and family along with the Cougar fans is something pretty special, and something I’ll remember for awhile.”
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