FISHER — Jake Palmer didn’t quite exactly know what to do the first time he tried to press the new Fisher logo that he was holding in his hands onto a black football helmet.
See, a drawing of a mean-looking bunny, complete with an orange and white face and orange ears, was staring right back at the Fisher football coach.
Why did Palmer, about to embark upon his second season in charge of the Bunnies at the time, struggle so much when presented with this situation on an Saturday morning back in August 2017?
“It was a pretty difficult process the first year because of the length of the ears and trying to make them symmetrical,” Palmer said. “But now, after three years of doing it, we have it down to a science.”
An award-winning science at that, too. Fisher recently won a poll on Twitter, receiving the most votes to emerge with the best-looking high school football helmet in Illinois. The Bunnies topped Minooka’s helmets in the state championship showdown after making their way through 164 schools that submitted photos of their helmets. Glenbrook South assistant football coach Travis Myers set up the Twitter contest.
“It was really just a great distraction at such a challenging time,” Palmer said. “I’ve joked that there isn’t any team in America who has a more creative helmet than we do. Honestly, winning really was a shock just because the size of our school.”
Minooka, a perennial Class 8A playoff contender, dwarfs Fisher’s enrollment by more than 2,500 students. Yet the Bunnies — who have reached the 1A playoffs each of the last three seasons wearing these helmets — prevailed.
“A few years back, there was a competition for the best mascot in the state,” Palmer said. “I thought we had a great chance to win, but we didn’t even get into the last four because a lot of bigger schools were just outvoting us because they had more people in their communities. We had a ton of support in our community, but I think a lot of other people around the state really supported our helmet in the competition as well.”
The origin of Fisher’s eye-catching helmets goes back to a meeting Palmer had with his four senior captains — Jaden Jones-Watkins, Jacob Horsch, Dawson Purvis and Kade Thomas — the summer before the 2017 season started.
Fisher had large bunny ears on one side of its black helmets during the 2016 season.
“I didn’t really like how they turned out,” Palmer said. “I had the idea to go with the way the Philadelphia Eagles have the wings going back on each side.”
Then Thomas chipped in.
“Kade mentioned, ‘What if we got the face on there, too?’” Palmer recalled. “So the helmet design was settled.”
An added bonus, though, came out of that meeting. Palmer wanted to award stickers to be placed on the helmets, too.
“Jaden brought up the idea of carrots,” Palmer said. “My response was, ‘Aren’t carrots a little cheesy, Jay?’ When he said, ‘Coach, I’m a little cheesy,’ it was a done deal. We had to do the carrots.”
A move from black helmets to white helmets before the 2018 season was notable, too, in the helmet’s evolution.
“The community seemed to like it the first year with the black helmets, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that we made the switch over to white helmets,” Palmer said. “That was when people really started to notice. The white helmets made the decal really pop.”
The 29-year-old Palmer hopes he can spend a Saturday morning in August 2020 putting on the bunny ear decals on Fisher’s helmet. All of that is up in the air at the moment because of the uncertain nature the pandemic has brought, but the Bunnies are scheduled to open the 2020 season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 28 at Villa Grove/Heritage.
“Starting the season on time is something constantly at the forefront of my mind,” Palmer said. “I try to just take it a day at a time and stay positive. August is still a long time away. This fall’s group of seniors has the chance to be the winningest class in Fisher football program history. I hope and believe that next fall’s group of seniors will still get to pull on that Fisher jersey for one last season.”