Rowan Gridiron Great Goes Hollywood and hamburgers
Bill "Stink" Fisher has a heck of a sense of humor. Of course, he'd have to, to call himself "Stink."
But Stink, a man with a big laugh and a bigger handshake, is no joke.
The former Rowan psychology major ('98) was a standout lineman for the Profs who was signed by the New York Jets even before he graduated.
Unfortunately, football didn't work out (the Jets cut him before the season opener). But acting, evidently, is. With less than 10 years in the Screen Actors Guild, the character actor has appeared opposite such heavyweights as Mark Wahlberg (Invincible) and James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) as well as in tons of TV spots, everything from Budweiser to Federal Express.
He also happens to be proprietor of a whimsical, kid-friendly eatery in food-serious Collingswood.
Dragons to Slay
For most people, the desire to pursue two disparate careers concurrently couldn't possibly work. But for Stink, like the boyhood name he formally adopted, it just kind of does.
He and his wife Connie, of Collingswood, had thought for years about opening a burger and fries joint in downtown Collingswood but there were always other priorities - college, a pro football career, family, kids.
The dream was realized in 2005 when the couple opened The Pop Shop, a nostalgic nod to 1950s drive-in culture and a tribute to Fisher's late father.
With its aqua walls and matching barstool tops, vintage soda fountain and old fashioned jukebox, the vibe is more 1957 than 2007.
"I think we've created our own niche," Stink says. "We do attract foodies but it's more the kind of place where parents can take their kids and not have to worry about whether they're being too loud."
In addition to parents with kids, the shop draws teenagers, couples on dates, politicos and everyone in between.
As for football, he looks upon his time in the pros philosophically.
"I was signed by the Jets in 1993, the same year I was supposed to graduate," says Fisher, 37. "My knees are so bad anyway I can't imagine what an NFL career would have done to them."
Bright lights, big celebrities
Around the time he left football, Fisher began pursuing a second lifelong dream - comedy -- but there was another small setback, the ability to use his own name.
"I was doing stand-up and sketch comedy and was going to join the (Screen Actors) Guild when I found there was a Bill Fisher listed from the 1920s. Well, there could be only one Bill Fisher and the Guild already had one so I adopted my old childhood nickname, one I always thought I might use someday anyway."
And, as it happens, Stink stuck.
"It's actually opened quite a few doors," he says. "People tend to remember a big guy named ‘Stink.' "
To date he's had a recurring role on Hack, the Philadelphia-based taxicab drama starring David Morse, appeared numerous times on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and was in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.
One of the people who remember this big guy named Stink is Wahlberg, star of Invincible, the true story of a South Philly bartender who did the unthinkable - became a starter with the Eagles after a walk-on tryout.
Fisher, who played lineman Denny Franks in the film, memorably told Wahlberg's character to watch opposing players' knuckles to know what they were going to do. If the knuckles turned white, the lineman was coming at him.
"That's something my own dad actually taught me," he says.
There's no sequel to Invincible in the works but Fisher will again appear opposite Wahlberg in the upcoming production of The Lovely Bones, a film version of the best selling novel by Alice Sebold.
"When Mark found out I was going to be in The Lovely Bones he was like, ‘alright, Stink, we'll party again!'"
In that film, currently in production, Walhberg plays the grieving father of a murdered girl and Fisher the father of the girl's friend.
In The Sopranos, the long-running HBO series about a N.J. crime family, Stink played an orderly in an asylum where Corrado "Jr." Soprano was incarcerated after attempting to kill his nephew, crime boss Tony Soprano. Stink's character, Warren, was part of a three-episode story arc but Stink thought it might have run just a little longer.
"I suggested to (creator) David Chase that Warren might kill Corrado, snuff him with a pillow or something," Stink recalled. "Well, Chase being Chase he had his own ideas of where that arc was going but he was polite enough to listen."