Sean Fisher (42) accepted a third straight Sullivan Award from longtime NU Trainer George Sullivan, right, and Lou Roper.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Fisher Receives Third Sullivan Scholarship

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York's N-Sider

Sean Fisher celebrated birthday No. 23 Thursday like he tackles almost every other day ... checking off his “to do” list, making sure everything’s in order and taking care of the most minute detail in his life so he can share a milestone with those closest to him. Make no mistake though. Fisher’s total focus this week is Arkansas State, not because he will receive a third straight George Finley Sullivan Award, a fully endowed scholarship that will be presented 20 minutes before Saturday’s kickoff, but because his focus is on helping his teammates get back on a championship track.

In his fifth year as a Husker, Fisher maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA in both business administration and pre-medicine. He’s used Bo Pelini's “improve every day process” mantra to guide his academic achievement. He’s also a favorite among Nebraska’s night security guards who have watched him be the last person to walk out of the Student-Life Complex since his arrival at Nebraska in 2008.

Fisher smiles when I tell him that. “It’s been a great place for me to study,” he said. “I think I know almost every night janitor we’ve had here, too. It’s been great. This place has definitely prepared me for life.”

A Chip Off the Old Block of His Dad, Todd Fisher

Sean reminds George Sullivan of his dad, Todd Fisher, a cornerback on Nebraska’s 1983 and ’84 teams. “Todd was a great young man when he played here, and I think Sean’s just like him in a lot of ways,” said “Sully”, who served in Nebraska’s Athletic Department for more than 40 years, including the last 18 as head athletic trainer until he retired in 1995.

“I’ve seen a lot of leaders come through here,” Sullivan said. “Sean and his dad aren’t the kind of people who jump out at you as leaders, but they’re the kind of people who everyone wants to follow. Our scholarship goes to someone who’s pursuing a career in the medical field, and I know this. I’m 85 years old, and I hope I’m still around when Sean becomes a doctor because he’s so even-tempered, I’d like to have him be my doctor.”

Sean Fisher, Nebraska’s 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior starting linebacker, is so humble and so quietly efficient and accomplished, he won’t even tell a writer the score he received on his Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) six weeks ago. “I did well, but I don’t want to say what I got,” he said Thursday. “Let’s just say I was happy with it.”

An MCAT Score So Good He’s Keeping It Private

Later, walking through the glass tunnel that connects Nebraska’s Hawks Championship indoor facility with the North Stadium Complex, a member of Nebraska’s coaching staff tells me Fisher’s MCAT score. Out of respect for the one who achieved it, however, we honor Fisher’s sense of privacy. He has, after all, set his sights on the University of Nebraska Medical Center, but admits it would not be out of place for him to apply to the University of Chicago, one of the top 10 medical schools in the country.

Last fall, Fisher was named a second-team Academic All-American at a school that leads all NCAA institutions in that category. “It’s important for a couple reasons,” he said. “No. 1, you walk down that hall to eat at the Lewis Training Table and you see some of the faces on that wall. To be in that same company with some of those guys is pretty humbling. No. 2, it’s nice to be recognized in anything you do when you work hard. Football’s great, but in the grand scheme of things, most people aren’t going to end up playing football when they’re 30 or 40 years old.”

Fisher says the best lesson he’s learned as a Husker is the ability to manage his time and develop a work ethic that he didn’t have in junior high or high school. He’s learned how to do things that aren’t all that motivating. “It’s how the real world’s going to be,” he said. “You can’t really take a day off, and I’ve taken very few days off since I’ve been here. Being here has helped me increase my work capacity almost exponentially.”

Pelini’s Process Standards Apply Academically, Too

Fisher was an early adopter in applying Pelini’s strict process standards to academics. “If you believe in that philosophy and do what you’re supposed to do, I think that carries over into whatever you do in life,” he said. “You have to stay focused on the small things and the day-to-day process. You can’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed and bogged down by the bigger picture. If you start thinking about everything you have to do instead of what you can only do one day at a time, you lose ground.”

Fisher sees himself as living proof of that philosophy. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t push myself in high school,” he said. “I had something like a 3.0, and my parents weren’t real pleased with my effort. I think I held back knowing that I’d really start applying myself when I had to, but they didn’t seem to think that was a good plan. They thought it would have been wiser to develop good habits earlier and they’re probably right about that.”

Todd Fisher, who develops and manages real estate in Omaha, and Cathy Fisher, Sean’s mom, are diligent planners. Last weekend, Todd was in Los Angeles to watch Sean play against UCLA, while Cathy was in Iowa City watching younger son Cole play against Iowa State. This weekend, they reverse roles. Todd will attend Cole’s game against Northern Iowa in Iowa City, and Cathy will be in Lincoln to support Sean. “I wish Todd could be on the field when Sean gets his award, but his parents do a great job of supporting both kids at the same time,” Sullivan said.

Once Classes Started, No Time to Play Around

Parental leadership spurred Sean to shift his academic gears early. “I knew what I wanted to do and when I got to college, I knew there was no time to play around,” Sean said. “I knew I had to sit down and focus and get really serious about being a doctor. I didn’t really have a back-up plan, so the day I got here I started applying myself a lot more in school. I figured if I established the work ethic right away that first semester, I’d be able to keep it going all the way through. I mean, it’s not something you can delay and catch later. If you’re serious, you have to do it straight-away.”

Dr. Pat Tyrance, one of three Huskers in the CoSIDA Academic Hall of Fame, is a role model for Fisher. “He was an Academic All-American linebacker here, played in the NFL, went to Harvard and became a spine surgeon,” Fisher said, indicating that he’s fairly certain he wants to become a surgeon himself.

Two summers ago, he spent a considerable amount of time shadowing Dr. David Clare, who works for the Nebraska Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine team that serves the Huskers. “Everybody knows what a great player Grant Wistrom was, too, but he was also very smart and won an NCAA Top Eight Award,” Fisher said.

Using the UCLA Game as the 2012 Eye-Opener

As focused as he is academically, Fisher does not want his last athletic opportunity to fizzle. “I think we’ve responded well in practice this week after what happened in LA,” he said. “We all talked the other day, and if we respond Saturday like we should, we can use the UCLA game as an eye-opener. At the end of the season, that’s how we want to view what happened. We want to use that loss to progress accordingly.

“It’s really up to us and how we approach the rest of the season,” Fisher said. “We can use the UCLA game as a learning experience instead of a loss. We’ve had a good week of preparation, and we’re ready to go again. I don’t think last Saturday’s loss changed anybody’s views on what we can still do. We can absolutely still win the Big Ten and accomplish what we all feel we’re capable of accomplishing. The past is what it is, and we’re looking forward right now. We’re solely focused on this weekend.”

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