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Monday, Aug 20, 2018
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SEC media days: Pressure already on for Jimbo Fisher

ATLANTA — When new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher walked to the stage Monday for his first SEC media days, he knew exactly what to say.


"That's an A&M thing," Fisher explained.

So Fisher knows how the Aggies say hello. Which is progress, considering Florida State is still upset with the way he said goodbye — after weeks of awkward no-comments and with one game left in a lost season.

"When you leave," Fisher said, "is there ever a good way to leave?"

Maybe not. But some goodbyes are better than others, and few were as bad as the way Fisher bolted an FSU program he rebuilt into a national power.

Even with seven months of hindsight, it doesn't sound as if Fisher regrets it.

Sure, Fisher's comments to reporters at the College Football Hall of Fame tried to smooth things over.

RELATED: Jimbo Fisher: 'I love Jameis…unfortunately he made some bad decisions'

He called FSU's administration "great," even though its lack of support was one reason why he wanted out. He said he loves the Bowdens and is thankful for the "unbelievable memories" from his eight seasons at the Seminoles' head coach. Despite his annual flirtation with other schools (usually from the SEC), he said repeatedly that he never intended to leave Tallahassee.

"I was very happy and very content there," Fisher said. "As you know, life takes changes and decisions are made."

Decisions are made. $75 million contracts are offered. Feelings are hurt. It happens.

Then you move on.

And Fisher has moved on to a program that has the administrative and financial support Fisher thought was lacking in Tallahassee.

"He's definitely embracing the culture," Aggies center Erik McCoy said.

McCoy sees it in every picture of Fisher, with the way he sticks out his thumb in the Aggies' Gig'em hand signal. You could hear it with the way Fisher spoke Monday, a year after calling the ACC the premier conference in the country.

"I think the ACC's progression to where it has become in football is because of the SEC," Fisher said.

RELATED: SEC meetings: What's Jimbo Fisher's legacy at Florida State?

Most importantly, you could see it with how Fisher is embracing the Aggies' sky-high expectations. At FSU, he cautioned against the Playoff-or-bust mentality brewing among fans; he never wanted 10 wins and a New Year's Six bowl to be viewed as a disappointment.

"You guys act like it's Playoff or nothing," Fisher said before the 2016 Orange Bowl.

Not at A&M. It's championship or nothing.

Defensive lineman Kingsley Keke said he only knew one thing about Fisher when A&M hired him to replace Kevin Sumlin.

"I knew he won a championship before," Keke said.

Now the Aggies expect him to deliver one to College Station, for the first time since 1939. They didn't award him with the largest contract in college football history (10 years, a fully guaranteed $75 million) to make the Orange Bowl.

That was clear in February, when chancellor John Sharp gave Fisher a national championship plaque with the date missing. Fisher hadn't even coached his first practice yet, but the expectation was already set.

"He had the same commitment that we did…" Fisher said. "I thought it was kind of nice myself. Hoping we can fill that in quickly."

How quickly?

"Your timetable is now," Fisher said.

A&M has the infrastructure in place for that type of immediate success, unlike what he inherited at FSU. The Aggies have been recruiting at a top-15 level and boast the type of facilities Fisher has long coveted. When he took over the Seminoles, he installed a GPS system to track his players during practice; A&M already had one (although Fisher tweaked it).

But the Aggies shouldn't start engraving 2018 into Fisher's plaque.

After a Week 1 gimme against Northwestern State, Fisher hosts a Clemson team that might be No. 1 in the country and a coach (Dabo Swinney) who has beaten him three times in a row. Up next is Louisiana-Monroe — the same Louisiana-Monroe team he was preparing to face last December before leaving for A&M one day before kickoff.

Then Fisher goes on the road for the first time, to Tuscaloosa to face defending national champion Alabama. His Seminoles had more talent last year than this season's Aggies, and former mentor Nick Saban still beat him by 17.

And that's just the first four weeks of Fisher's first season.

Howdy indeed.

The early returns on Fisher are positive. His players say they're responding well to his intense coaching style. His 2019 recruiting class is No. 2 in the country. And he's starting to understand the culture of one of the quirkiest programs in the nation.

But eventually, Fisher will have to start doing more than wearing cowboy boots and saying hello with a Texas twang. He'll have to do what he did at FSU — deliver a title to a starving fan base.

If he doesn't, he'll find out how the Aggies say goodbye.

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