The Doctor is in.
Dr. Sean Fisher — it has a nice ring to it — isn't a practitioner of medicine just yet. At the moment, he's still very much a Nebraska linebacker, having the time of his life running around, knocking heads and playing in the dirt.
You might say he's surgically removing the opponents' run game.
“I'm having a lot of fun,” Fisher said.
It's been a long time coming for the senior from Millard North. A gruesome leg injury ended his sophomore season. He had a painful comeback. He's been the whipping boy of fans and media alike.
(And if you ripped Fisher at some point, consider that one day you may be looking up at him on an operating table.)
Anyway, it hasn't gone at all like he or anyone planned.
Which makes what's happening now even sweeter. Fisher is having the kind of senior year you dream of. He's saved his best for last.
But what if this isn't the end?
Fisher applied for med school to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Chicago, Stanford, the University of Colorado-Denver and Johns Hopkins. He'll find out later this year if he's been accepted.
But because he missed 2010 with that leg injury, he can apply to the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility. Chances are good he would get that extra year.
The way Fisher's career was going, nobody could blame the academic All-American if he was ready to trade in his jersey for a green smock.
But now that he's hit the refresh button on his career, the black shirt that he wears in practice looks and feels pretty good.
Couldn't his next life wait one more year?
“I haven't really sat down and given it serious consideration,” Fisher said. “It's probably something I will sit down at the end of the year and talk to my fiancee and family about.
“But, having the chance to play like I did last week makes the allure of it more significant.”
He certainly doesn't have the vocabulary of a strongside linebacker. Right now, Fisher is juggling two lives. On Monday, he flew to Chicago for an interview at the University of Chicago (with coach Bo Pelini's blessing). On Tuesday, he was back in black, trying to beg off interviews because he had a paper to finish.
Chances are, if the right school accepts Fisher, he has to leap. Those opportunities aren't there every year.
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Whatever he does, Fisher will be upholding a family tradition.
Sean is one of four boys in the Fisher clan and the second Blackshirt. The patriarch is his father, Todd, who played corner and safety for the Huskers from 1981 to '84 . The brothers are Ryan, who played baseball and is now an architect in Omaha; Cole, a redshirt freshman linebacker at Iowa; and Clay, a junior safety and running back at Millard North.
There should be some pretty good gridiron tales at that dinner table, starting at the head seat. Todd played in one of the classic eras of Husker football, a time of conference championships and a historic 1983 season.
But if you asked Sean or the others for specifics on their father's exploits, you'd likely be greeted with a shrug. There aren't a lot of photos or memorabilia from that time. And Todd never brings it up.
The elder Fisher coached his sons in the KWAA and other youth football leagues in west Omaha. But he never swayed them into the game and wouldn't let them play until they were at least 10.
“I think they're aware of what I've done,” Todd said. “But we don't really talk about it. I never wanted to push my boys into the game. I wanted them to find their own way. I'm glad they play, but we have a rule at home — we don't talk football unless they want to.”
That was fine with Sean, who found himself wanting to partake in the other family tradition. Todd's father, Eugene, was an anesthesiologist at an Omaha hospital and a cosmetic surgery facility.
Eugene was in on countless surgeries, and sometimes Sean tagged along.
While grandpa worked, grandson — the would-be doctor — would stand in the back of the operating room and sneak peeks at the action.
“It's been a longtime interest,” Sean said. “With four boys growing up, there's always some kind of cut or something to stitch up. I get into all that stuff.”
What was the best thing you saw?
“Probably a four-vessel (heart) bypass,” Sean said. “It was kind of a surreal experience, seeing somebody's heart beating inside their chest.”
It wasn't quite as cool when Sean ended up on the table.
Todd remembers the day in fall camp, August 2010. An Omaha TV reporter called Todd at home and asked him what he thought about Sean breaking his leg at practice. Todd had no idea what he was talking about. The next thing he knew, he was driving to Lincoln, where he remembers head athletic trainer Jerry Weber telling him it looked like a career-ending injury.
Sean missed the 2010 season. He played in 10 games in 2011, but was still somewhat hobbled. With Nebraska now in the Big Ten, the defense needed Fisher's size and strength — he's 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds. While the critics howled, they didn't know Fisher still couldn't push off on the ankle that had been dislocated and had a plate inserted.
“He's a pretty proud kid,” Todd said. “Not many people knew the kind of pain he was playing in last year.”
Sean said the criticism didn't bother him. It bothered the father.
“I can tell you being a parent is 1,000 times harder than being a player,” Todd said. “I don't look at message boards anymore. People get on there and try to make themselves sound smart and don't know what's going on. They can be pretty harsh.
“They say these kids don't look at those things, but they do. They say it doesn't matter, but it does. They're kids. They're 18, 19 years old.”
Todd also recalled an incident from Sean's freshman year, after the Arkansas State game:
“He and Will Compton had switched positions late in the week and didn't have a great game. They played hard, but they had to adjust to new positions.
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“After the game, I'm standing in line at a port-a-potty and behind me are these two guys, talking about the game. They start ripping on Sean and Will, and I'm OK with some criticism of making mistakes, but they started talking about manhood and toughness. I wasn't too excited about that.
“I turned around and said, 'You know, it's funny how you never know who you're going to stand next to in line at the port-a-potty.' I told them I didn't appreciate what they said, and that if they wanted to wait five minutes, Sean would be here and they could tell him themselves.
“They said, 'No thanks.'”
That's history. The wounds have healed. Sean said he's “steered clear of that stuff.” He's not answering critics now, and wouldn't come back next year just to do so.
What you're seeing is the release of pent-up joy, the kind of stuff Todd and his next-door neighbor Tony Caputo — father of former Husker center Mike Caputo — used to see when their boys got together in the backyard.
“I honestly don't know what he'll do. We haven't talked about it,” Todd said of Sean's pending decision. “What he's going to have to come to grips with is, is he done with football, and is he ready to move on to the next chapter? That will be his decision.
“I'm just happy he's healthy, and he's having fun again.”
It's the way a senior year should be. Assuming that will be Fisher's Senior Day in two weeks.
“I've treated the whole season that way,” Sean said. “It's the last go-around, and take it for what it's worth. And if I decide to come back for another go-around, so be it.
“It's just good to have fun in football again.”
Contact the writer:
402-444-1025, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/tomshatelOWH
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