The relationship between Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher and his son, Ethan, is pretty well documented in the college football world, if not just around Tallahassee. Fisher has his son by his side while running the Seminoles program and his son nearly caused Fisher to step away from coaching back in 2011.
Ethan Fisher was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease (Fanconi anemia) in March 2011, after Jimbo’s first full season as head coach of Florida State. Upon the diagnosis that rocked the Fisher family, Jimbo gave at least a glancing thought to stepping away from the rigors of running a major college football program destined for greatness.
“Yeah, it did cross my mind, without a doubt,” Fisher revealed last month for the first time in an exclusive interview with the Palm Beach Post. “I didn’t know what (Ethan’s condition) required, what it meant. ‘Should I coach? ‘Should I not coach?’”
Considering the circumstances and uncertainty, who could blame Fisher for thinking this way? Ethan was facing a challenge much more important in the grand scheme of things compared to what play to call on 3rd and 3 from the opponent’s 27-yard line in a four-point game in the fourth quarter. While the thought may have crossed his mind, Fisher says the situation never quite got to the point where he had to make a tough call to back off from his coaching duties.
“I don’t know if we ever got to that point where we thought about it seriously but it crossed my mind to think about that because I didn’t know until we found out everything.”
As we know by now, Fisher stayed in his head coaching chair in Tallahassee while he and his wife (now ex-wife) fought alongside Ethan’s side the entire way. Having his son going through what he was though was a distraction for Fisher, as you can imagine.
“That spring I was distracted,” Fisher said. “I was in practice and I would catch myself every now and then thinking about something. I have never done that before but I did occasionally that spring.
“I thought, ‘how am I going to do it? Am I doing it justice not being with him as much and feeling guilty every time? We got to learn to manage and every second I got a chance to be with my family, that’s what I’m going to do.”’
If push ever did come to shove and Fisher had to make a choice to stay head coach at Florida State or be with his family, Georgia wide receivers coach James Coley (a former Florida State assistant under Fisher) says the decision would be pretty simple.
“There is no gray area with Jimbo,” Coley said. “His family is first. He’s not a guy where his profession is his top priority. His boys are his priorities.
“He’s one of the toughest men I’ve been around. Even though he was shook he came to work, he kept himself going. People who knew him really well, you know he was hurting inside.”
The human side of big time college football coaches rarely gets seen behind all of the recruiting news and pressures of building a national championship-caliber program (which Fisher has, of course), so stories like these are refreshing. Fortunately for Fisher, he never had to give up college football while supporting his son. Ethan has since been a sidekick for the Seminoles program, leading the team on the field and remaining a fixture on the sidelines on gameday and standing by his father’s side during the postgame interviews on the field.