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There is no inside scoop on what Nebraska Academic All-America linebacker Sean Fisher should do – or has decided to do – given what would appear to be two wide-open choices at this stage of his life: 1) Petition the NCAA for another year of football eligibility, which almost certainly would be granted since Fisher missed the entire 2010 season with a broken leg; or 2) Take that stellar, off-the-chart MCAT score and parlay it into some serious scholarship money and get on with the journey that you’ve targeted since the first day you stepped on the University of Nebraska’s campus – go to medical school.
That’s the decision facing this smart, handsome, humble, engaged student-athlete, and I think it’s worth asking our readers the same question: What would you do if you were Sean Fisher? Whatever position any of us would take would be nothing but personal conjecture, based on a small amount of contemplation, deliberation and reflection. Since Fisher wasn’t saying which way he was leaning Thursday night while accepting the Tom Novak Award at Omaha’s annual Outland Award Dinner, all we can do is speculate.
Read on Before Seeing The N-Sider’s Hunch
I have a hunch that I will reveal at the end of this blog, but you’ll have to accept it for what it is – pure guesswork. Consider, if you will, these two headlines:
The Omaha World-Herald: Fisher feeling pressure to decide
The Lincoln Journal-Star: Coaches not pressuring Fisher for decision
Nebraska linebacker coach Ross Els found some humor in this dilemma when he started reading the criteria for the Novak Award before presenting it at Omaha’s Downtown Doubletree Hotel. When he got to the word “senior”, Els pretended to be baffled. “Senior?” he asked. “I think you have another year of eligibility. We’ll have to talk when this thing’s over.” The laughter that greeted that remark wasn’t canned. It was real, and just about everyone in a packed banquet room knew the purpose of Els’ punch line.
“I’ve had players who have come back from devastating injuries,” Els said. “I’ve had players who have been outstanding role models and leaders who are willing to do things for other people. And I’ve had players who have had perfect 4.0 GPAs and have done as great off the field as they have on. What I don’t know, Sean, is if I’ve ever had anybody who has been able to put all three of those things together.”
That’s why Els thinks Fisher exemplifies the “courage and determination despite all odds” that baselines the Tom Novak Award winner.
“That’s what impresses us,” Els said. “Sean is the type of guy where everything he attacks, he’s going to go full-bore. He’s going to do things correctly. I just found out about his wedding planning. I’ve heard that Sean has kind of taken over, right? He always makes sure things are done right.”
Fisher Can See All Sides of a Difficult Equation
Fisher’s acceptance speech credited everyone who’s played an important role in his success on and off the field – his parents, his fiancé (a fellow student-athlete), his head coach, his defensive coordinator, his position coach and yes, everyone else who has supported him, believed in him and trusted him.
That includes Dr. Erin Sayer, in year No. 11 advising and coordinating Nebraska’s top medical students about the process and the journey. “Sean is a great role model,” she told me Friday afternoon. “He’s shown great balance between his academic life and his athletic life. He’s in a unique situation. He can go either way and be successful either way, even after a long year of rehabilitation two years ago. It’s been a great experience for Sean, but not without its share of stress.
“Sean is a true student-athlete,” said Sayer, who has been Fisher’s on-campus pre-medical advisor since he was a freshman. “His dream has always been to go to medical school, and I think that’s the reason why he’s been so successful. He never lost his focus, even when he had to come back from a major injury. He’s responded so well to everything that’s come his way.”
According to Sayer, Fisher’s MCAT score is competitive enough that Fisher probably could defer his med school acceptance offers and give football another year of the incredible focus it requires. There is risk, however, in that prospect. First, there’s the potential for more injury and secondly, there’s a distinct possibility of medical schools asking candidates to take their MCAT tests again if the score is no longer valid.
“Whether you take a year off and play football, or travel abroad, a student can always come back and be the same med school student you would be if you didn’t do either,” Sayer said.
I ask Sayer if she knows what Sean has decided. “No,” she replied.
Only Sean Knows for Sure; Help Available
I was smart enough not to ask for a prediction because good advisors present both sides of the case with equal amounts of logic, knowing full well that the answer lies in the heart and the soul of the person who has to make that decision.
Thursday night, the Fisher family and Sean’s fiancé gave no indication whatsoever what their son/brother/future spouse is most likely to choose when he sorts through all the facts and plots the move that will define the rest of his life.
It’s my personal opinion that a mother and a fiancé may wield the most influence for a highly motivated football player/future doctor who appears perfectly willing to seize either opportunity as long as he’s prepared to write the best chapters of his life. Such decisions, of course, go well beyond coin flips before kickoffs, third-down sacks and well-timed interceptions.
As much as the Fisher family loves football, I’m betting that keeping their priorities straight ranks higher than dreaming about the Rose Bowl. Therefore, with an impending wedding and the likelihood of immediately available scholarship money to attend med school, I have a sneaking suspicion that Sean Fisher, Academic All-American, is going to put the student side of his life ahead of the athletic side.
The Most Important Question: What Do You Think?
Let me remind you that this is just one man’s opinion … mine. Frankly, I’m more interested in what you think. What would you do if you were Sean Fisher? Begin that long road now to become a doctor who can protect and save people’s lives? Or wait a year, so you can blitz Ohio State and other Big Ten schools on third down and maybe, just maybe, catch them by surprise?
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Voices from Husker Nation
Sean! I graduated from medical school at Nebraska 27 years ago and have had a great career in Neonatology. I’ve taken care of more than 20,000 sick babies and loved every minute of it. There are more patients to care for, and will be many for you, too, after you finish your medical training. All I want to say is: There are many years to practice medicine! Delaying by one year to seize an opportunity that so many can only dream and salivate about by being such an asset to the Husker team … oh man! Any med school would be nuts not to secure a position for you starting in 2014. Retaking the MCAT? Nuts! You are an academic stud, and that doesn’t change over a year or two. You have drive, passion and intellect. It’s innate for you. In summary: If you love the game, please play! You have the rest of your life for the grind of medical school, stress and sleep deprivation of residency, and uncertainties of practicing medicine in our brave new world. It’s a pretty good gig anyway, and it’ll be waiting for you! Either way, I wish you the best that life has to offer. Just hope I get to cheer for you another year on the gridiron before I start to cheer for you through your medical training. GBR! Terrance Zuerlein, MD, Director, Neonatology-Cardiology Associates, Little Rock, Arkansas
Mr. Fisher’s decision regarding football vs. medical school should hinge on one thing: Passion. Does he still have the passion for football that will allow him to enjoy the extreme effort and dedication another year of football requires. Any other issue should be secondary. If he no longer has the passion, he would be miserable this year, just as he would be miserable if the passion remains and he chose to enter medical school. Waiting a year does not put his medical school options at risk … period. He needs to look no further than Dr. Scott Strasburger (one of the Huskers’ esteemed team physicians/orthopedic surgeon). Scott delayed his enrollment in medical school for a year after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. After successfully completing med school, he was rewarded with elite residency and fellowship training positions at the most respected programs in the nation. I personally wrestled a fifth year for Coach Mike Denney at UNO before entering medical school…no harm done. It is a passion question for Sean, and he will make the right decision for him. Bill Colgate, MD, Sarasota, Florida
I believe Sean will be back for the following reason, which I would assume he would use in deciding. It’s called the 65-year-old method: When he sits in the stands at age 65 watching the Huskers play for their division championship, in NU’s domed Memorial Stadium, will he be thinking: “I’m glad I enrolled in Med School instead of playing that final season” or will he be thinking: “I wish I’d played one more season instead of going into Med School”. Med school will be there for Sean one way or the other, but he only has one last chance/one last year to enjoy football. I’m guessing football holds some of the most special moments in his life. If not now, they will for sure when he’s 60 or 70-years-old. Bill O’Connor, Sioux City, Iowa
If Sean Fisher were to play football for another year, could he not attend med school at UNL on scholarship for that year? Maybe not take a full class load but enough to meet the requirements for an athletic scholarship. Then, after one semester and the end of the football season, he could enroll in his preferred med school. That way he would get the best of both worlds. Kind regards, Tom Mertens, Jacksonville, Florida
How many opportunities for medical school and a professional career? The answer is probably endless. How many more opportunities to play for the Husker Red? If you take that one last opportunity, you’ll probably never look back on it and regret it. That’s my answer to the question. Jim Sutton, McCook, Nebraska
Sean, have you thought about applying for a Rhodes scholarship? You would be a perfect candidate. The criteria are based on both academic and athletic excellence. Surely, you belong among this elite group. Mick Lowe, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Sean, I’d like to see you return to football for one more year. I don’t think you’ve fulfilled what you can do or become what you can become. But you can!!! Keith Petrie, Chicago
I agree that going to med school would be the best route for Sean to take. Ed Riggs, Meridian, Idaho
Go to school! Dave Burkley, M.D., Austin, Texas
I think Sean should go to med school. Judy Sundberg, Omaha, Nebraska (season ticketholder since 1965)
If I was Sean and wanted counsel, I would seek a meeting with Tom Osborne just to bounce around thoughts. Tom would not make his decision for him, but he would put everything in proper perspective. Why not take advantage of a fantastic resource who would be happy to offer his views? As for myself, as much as I would love to see Sean on the field next year, med school would be my choice. Rich MacMillan, Shorewood, Illinois-