Sonny Fisher Represents '63 Liberty Bowl Champs

In his day, Mississippi State quarterback-safety Sonny Fisher always seemed to be coming up with a big play. The coaches often turned to him in crucial situations. Despite his size, the "little guy" helped turn around a lot of games.

It's true not many quarterbacks under six feet tall ever make the final cut. However, Fisher was one of those rare exceptions. A natural-born leader, the talented two-way performer was always in the thick of things during a brilliant career with the Bulldogs.

There's a number of quarterbacks, on the small side, who have made it to the highest level - The NFL.

How many remember Eddie LeBaron? He was the diminutive field general of the Washington Redskins. Then there's Doug Flutie still living dangerously in the pro ranks. Although on the small side, Flutie has always managed to get the job done at the collegiate level and in the NFL.

Mississippi State fans will never forget the era of one "little man" who had a tremendous impact around the SEC - Sonny Fisher - an idol of undersized players everywhere.

Retired U.S. Congressman G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery was one of Fisher's biggest fans. In fact, he had his own nickname for the Bulldogs' little sparkplug.

Montgomery affectionately referred to Fisher as "Mighty" throughout the storybook career of the diminutive little man who thrived under head coach Paul Davis.

Both Fisher and Montgomery hail from Meridian, Miss. Montgomery's admiration of the former Bulldog, known for coming up with big plays, has grown through the years.

Fisher was one of the smallest to ever play quarterback in the SEC. Although years earlier, many will recall Mississippi State quarterback Frank "Twig" Branch, 150-pounds soaking wet, once led the Bulldogs to a big upset win over No. 1-ranked Tennessee.

During a visit to the Mississippi State University campus a little over a year ago by Montgomery and former President George W. Bush, the congressman introduced Fisher to Bush simply as "Mighty".

"He gave me that nickname," explained Fisher, certainly a "big man" on campus during an illustrious playing career with the Dogs. A favorite of the fans, he was famous for making "mighty" big plays, too!

A 5-10, 160-pound two-way performer, Fisher led the Bulldogs to victory after victory. He was tough as nails and had a knack for coming up with game-turning plays.

Fisher helped lead the Maroon and White of coach Paul Davis to a thrilling 16-12 triumph over North Carolina State in the 1963 Liberty Bowl on a frozen field at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia Pa. It was just one of many exciting victories that campaign.

During this past off-season the little, yet dynamic, field general was presented the Bill Wade "Unsung Hero" Award at the All-American Football Foundation Banquet of Champions XXXVII at the Clarion Hotel Coliseum in Jackson, Miss.

An active supporter of Jackie Sherrill's Mississippi State Bulldogs, Fisher represented MSU's 1963 Liberty Bowl champions.

It marked the second time a Mississippi State football player was honored during the off-season. All-American linebacker D.D. Lewis, one of MSU's all-time greats and an All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys, was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame during the winter.

"It was a terrific honor for me to represent Mississippi State's 1963 Liberty Bowl Champions," said Fisher, the recipient of the Dudy Noble Award and the MSU Outstanding Football Player Award in 1963. The Bulldogs, who finished ranked No. 11 in the country, lost only one SEC game in '63 and that by only one point, 20-19, to Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Other former Mississippi State players receiving awards at the All-American Football Foundation Banquet of Champions were Walter Suggs (T), Bill "Shag" Pyron (T), Wally Beech (RD-DB), Joe Fortunato (FB-LB), Art Davis (HB), Harper Davis (HB), and the late Shorty McWilliams, an All-American running back.

"I would like to thank my teammates and the Mississippi State coaching staff for making this possible," said Fisher, who played with some of the greatest players in MSU history, including Ode Burrell (HB), Hoyle Granger (FB), and Pat Watson (C-LB), an all-star trio.

Also a native of Meridian, Watson was a Mississippi State star who later became a college football coach. He was the victim of a heart attack some two years ago at Georgia where he served as an assistant.

"Pat was one of the greatest football players I ever knew and one of the best persons I've ever known, a family man and a great human being," said Fisher, who named one of his sons, Kenneth Watson Fisher, after the Mississippi State All-American.

An All-SEC pick himself, Fisher said he played for an outstanding group of coaches at Mississippi State - included among them were Paul Davis, Johnny Majors, Ken Donohue, David "Dog" Owens, and Leonard McCullough.

In addition to playing quarterback, Fisher led the SEC in interceptions in 1963 and also led the Bulldogs in total offense, a feat that will unlikely never be topped.

Nationally-ranked Mississippi State lost only two games in 1963. The Bulldogs paced the SEC in rushing with Fisher directing the attack, while yielding only 82 points all season long.

For the past eight years, Fisher has served as the director of the Small Business Development Center at Mississippi State University. Previous to being reunited with the MSU family, he owned and operated the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury auto dealership in Laurel, Miss., for 23 years.

For those who have followed Mississippi State on the gridiron through the years, "Twig" Branch came from the same mold, an All-American in the hearts and minds of Bulldog fans everywhere.

Branch and Fisher took part in the 2002 MSU Football Reunion, June 14-15, in a salute to the former players and coaches from the 1949-1961 era.

The two little guys, still small in stature despite adding a few pounds since their playing days, guided Mississippi State to some of its greatest wins.

Don Foster, a 31-year veteran newspaper writer, is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News. He will be writing regular feature articles for Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi High School sports on the internet.

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