Ethan Fisher: Defying the Odds with Fanconi Anemia

Ethan Fisher is defined by many traits that include a contagious personality, positive outlook, and competitive spirit.

Not by Fanconi anemia.

Fisher, in fact, rarely thinks of the rare blood disease in his body unless it’s mentioned in conversation or a recurring three-month appointment is scheduled.

The senior at North Florida Christian is too busy enjoying the moment.

And preparing to take the next step in football as a placekicker at Samford University.

Ethan looks to be part of a legacy that includes his father, former Florida State and Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher, uncle Bryan and legendary coach Bobby Bowden.

Ethan Fisher verbally committed to Samford in November, made an official visit to the Alabama school earlier this month and signed with the Bulldogs on the first day of the Early Signing Period, Wednesday, Dec. 20.

“I honestly forget that I have it,” Fisher said of Fanconi anemia (FA).

“I was told (younger) I couldn’t do this. It motivated me. And now I am here (playing football).”

Ethan Fisher travels a public journey with Fanconi anemia

Fisher, 18, has traveled a public journey since diagnosed in 2011 with the genetic blood disease that could lead to bone marrow failure and increased risks for cancer.

The Kidz 1st Fund, established by Jimbo Fisher and ex-wife Candi that same year, has spread awareness and raised more than $12 million to fund research at the Kidz 1st Fund Comprehensive Fanconi Anemia Center at the University of Minnesota.

Since the age of 5, Ethan has navigated blood-count checks, a yearly bone marrow test, therapies, screening for tumors and cancer.

And the unknown.

None of it has deterred or distressed Fisher. He’s grateful, not fearful. He doesn’t downplay the seriousness of this disease. Fanconi anemia doesn’t have a cure. And while the extent of it varies, the condition affects many parts of the body, according to Medline Plus.

Fisher’s reports have been good and medical advances are being made like gene therapy that could somehow repair or replace defective cells. Researchers are currently testing frozen stem cells from Fisher to determine if that could work.

And, just as important from Fisher’s personal perspective, he has achieved a goal that long seemed impossible after being repeatedly told by doctors to avoid contact sports and other activities that could lead to injuries.

“We didn’t know if our decision to let Ethan play sports was right, but we did what we thought was best,” Candi Fisher said. “We didn’t want to put him in a bubble to kill his spirit. It’s a hard tightrope to walk, wondering how to balance (concerns) and letting him being himself. …

“His spirit helps him fight this disease.”

Jimbo Fisher, who often returns to Tallahassee, has pointed out the complexity of FA and its risks. He has watched Ethan deal with the life-threatening illness while growing into a typical, energetic teenager and athlete focused on chasing dreams.

“Ethan never looks back, he’s always looking forward,” Fisher told the Democrat in an interview. “You are part of something every day and maybe you don’t realize maybe the big picture. You worry, but God has a plan. He wants to help others with this disease, and he also wants to be part of beating this.”

NFC’s Ethan Fisher receives Dale Doss Courage Award

Earlier this month, Fisher was presented the Dale Doss Courage Award by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. Doss, who died in 2019, was a U.S. Navy officer and Tallahassee resident who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

The award is presented annually by the organization to a local student-athlete who overcomes severe adversity to play the game they love. Fisher received a standing ovation from the crowd that included his mother, father and older brother Trey at the Dunlap Champions Club at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Emcee Hugh Tomlinson, president of the club and executive with Seminole Boosters, Inc., told the crowd it takes courage to face physical difficulties, it takes courage to be a player at all, and it may even be added pressure when your father is such a public and prominent figure in your sport.

While Ethan knew he was receiving an award, he was “shocked and honored” by the introduction and award’s significance. Trey Fisher, a record-setting quarterback at Godby who signed with UT-Martin and is finishing his career at Florida A&M, couldn’t be more proud of Ethan.

He said his brother has inspired him.

“Ethan has absolutely been a huge motivation to me as it has helped me push through a lot of obstacles in life feeling like I have it easy compared to his situation,” Trey said. “Ethan’s ability to block things out is very inspiring and always has been to me.”

Ethan Fisher has been around football his entire life

Ethan has been around football as long as he can remember.

Fisher first started kicking field goals over power lines near his home as a child, and later at Doak Campbell Stadium before and after games when his father was an assistant and head coach with the Seminoles (2007-2017). He also attended many Texas A&M games while his father, who was fired last month after six seasons, coached the Aggies.

When given the okay by his parents and doctor to play sports with certain limitations following his diagnosis, Fisher didn’t tip-toe onto the field. He played lacrosse, known as hard-hitting, prior to high school.

Ethan enjoyed the game’s pace and physicality, though Candi admitted it “was a little scary for me” because FA affects a person’s platelets, which helps blood clot and control bleeding.

Ethan then focused on his passion for placekicking.

In his two seasons with the Eagles, the right-footed Fisher converted 81 of 84 extra-point attempts, 10 of 15 field goals with a long of 41 yards and handled most kickoffs. The Eagles advanced to the Class 1S state semifinals this season.

“Ethan was a great teammate with a great attitude,” NFC senior quarterback JP Pickles said. “He always keeps us laughing and I enjoyed being able to call him a teammate.”

Fisher, a 5-foot-8, 140 pounder, is serious about placekicking. He attended camps last summer at Texas A&M, Pittsburgh and Samford, to name a few. He doesn’t make excuses and is focused on improving his overall strength and technique.

When Fisher made his official visit to Samford, located near Birmingham, he felt at home. Candi Fisher was born and raised in nearby Piedmont, where she was a high school cheerleader and a huge fan of Alabama football and Atlanta Braves baseball. Fisher’s grandmother still lives in the area.

“It was really exciting,” Fisher said of his official visit, which also included fellow commitment and future roommate, quarterback Haden Klees of Wakulla High. “Everyone was really into it and the coaches were great.”

Added Candi: “What was so great for me, from the moment they offered Ethan, they made him feel very wanted. It was a good vibe. I went up there thinking it was going to be great, and it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Jimbo Fisher has a strong connection to the program.

He was the NCAA Division III Player of the Year during his 1987 senior season, playing quarterback and passing for a then-school record of 2,631 yards with 34 touchdowns. Fisher later joined the Bulldogs coaching staff (1988-92), when he coached his younger brother Bryan, and was inducted into the athletics’ Hall of Fame in 2018.

Fisher’s life and family are also intertwined with Samford’s most famous alum and coach, Bobby Bowden.

Bowden was also a Little All-American quarterback at Samford, was the program’s head coach from 1969-72 and the school dedicated its football field to Bowden following Bowden’s death in 2021. Fisher’s coach when he played at Samford was Bowden’s son, Terry. Fisher was an assistant under Bobby Bowden at FSU and his successor. Fisher’s first win with the Seminoles? A 59-6 win over Samford in September 2010.

“It feels like deja vu,” Fisher said.

“It’s amazing, the ties lead back to Samford. He has always wanted to play football and he has worked his tail off. I am just so very proud of him.”

Added Candi: “He is a special kid, and he continues to amaze me every day.”

Ethan Fisher, who meets each day head on, is a source of inspiration and guidance for others. And he won’t be defined by Fanconi anemia.

“I talk about it when asked, but it’s something I don’t let bother me,” Fisher said. “I am always doing something.”

2023-12-27 11:23:06
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