Pat Fischer and Stickum
If you talk to a Redskins alumnus of a certain vintage, and you ask them for Pat Fischer stories, they will inevitably start talking about the stuff dribbling down his chin.
"He used to take Tuf-Skin--he didn't wear a mouthpiece--he'd tuck it down in his lip like you put in snuff or something," Joe Theismann once told me. "And when he'd hit people, he'd bite on the Tuf-Skin. And he'd drink orange Gatorade, and he'd look like this monster, he'd have this crap running out of his mouth."
It's evocative, no? And these stories have been going on now for as long as I've been alive. Here's how Rusty Tillman described the former cornerback to Ken Denlinger in 1977.
"You know that stuff receivers use on their hands, Stickum? Well, Pat chews it," Tillman said then. "He'll come off the field and go to his little area on the bench. You don't know what he's doing - gathering his thoughts or whatever - but if you start to talk to him he'll bite your hand off."
"They used to have Stickum that the wide receivers would use, it was like a jelly, you'd put it on your sock," Bill Brundige told me earlier this month at Redskins alumni day. "Well, Fischer used to put it in his mouth. So he'd be in the huddle, and he always had his hands on his hip, and you'd look over, and there's orange drool coming out of his mouth."
If you're like me, you've spent 30 years - or at least, a few months - wondering just why Fischer decided to eat Stickum. The internet provides all sorts of possibilities. One account said it was about relaxation. Another claims it was part of his intimidation routine.
"C'mon, did I intimidate guys?" joked Fischer, now 70, who played at 5-feet-9 inches.
So why did he drool orange? He said he put Stickum on his socks, like everyone else back then. One time, he accidentally put his still Stickum'd hand in his mouth. And he realized the stuff kept his mouth moist, even as he sweated out all liquids.
"On a real hot day, you put a little of that under your tongue; that would just keep your mouth [fresh], so you wouldn't get that real dry mouth," Fischer told me at the team's recent alumni day. "There were a couple games were they took pictures where it was running out and everybody thought I was chewing tobacco. But I never chewed tobacco. That's what I used."
That's the sort of stuff that makes you into a fan favorite. Also this.
"He was feisty as hell," Brundige said. "I've often said that if I wanted somebody in a dark alley at night, I'd want Fischer with me, because he was a tough little so and so.
The archives are filled with tales of his ferocity, and of his driving larger players into the ground. I asked him why he played like that.
"Why? To make the team," he said. "Tackling and football is contact. I don't think you can change that. That's the way I played at the University of Nebraska. That was football....I mean, I'm sure I set out in every game to hit someone every play if I could. I used to say that to myself."
He hit me plenty of times as we talked. His default action is hitting. He also left me with the best end-of-interview line I've yet to encounter.
"Alright," he said, just walking away from me. "You're on your own, big boy."
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