While everyone was excited to get back to football when fall camp kicked off on Saturday, there weren't many players on Nebraska's roster who were more grateful to return to the practice field than junior linebacker Sean Fisher.
Roughly one full year ago, Fisher's career was temporarily derailed when he broke his left fibula and tore the deltoid ligament in his ankle after being rolled up on in practice. Somewhat surprisingly, it was the ligament tear that was more serious as far as returning to the football field was concerned.
For the next several months, the Omaha native was left on crutches and riding a scooter to get from place to place, watching his teammates take the field for the 2010 season without him.
When he was finally cleared to return to practice this spring, there were some mixed emotions for Fisher. He was obviously thrilled to return to practice, but admittedly the fear of re-injuring his leg was always in the back of his mind.
Now with a full year to heal from the injury, Fisher said feels as good as ever, both physically and mentally.
"I don't really think about it anymore to be honest," Fisher said. "I think in kind of evaluating my play in the spring, even if I wasn't thinking about it maybe I was subconsciously a little bit just in terms of my physicality and wanting to get in there and hit. The first couple of (spring) practices I maybe sat there and thought about it a little bit, but I'm past that. I hope to just continue to elevate my play this fall and just get over it."
Despite being regarded as one of Nebraska's top returning linebackers this season, Fisher said he by no means is counting walking right back into a starting job this season.
Having not played a live game of football since the 2009 Holiday Bowl, Fisher said he knows full well that he has to prove himself every step of the way in returning to the player he once was.
"Nothing here is guaranteed," Fisher said. "It doesn't matter what you did last season or last year, it's all pretty much based on present performance. I was not anticipating just coming back ad being handed anything. I knew I was going to come back and have to work, which will be the case through the summer and through fall camp."
Fisher may not be taking anything for granted this fall, but his fellow linebackers are definitely eager to have him back in the mix at the position. Junior linebacker Will Compton said playing alongside two players as talented and experienced as Fisher and senior Lavonte David allows for great chemistry within the unit on the field.
"When we're all three out there, there's a lot of communication going on," Compton said. "We have three people who know the defense well out there at the same time
It's just a lot easier, because we know every adjustment and we just communicate with each other well. It's just a lot smoother."
Fisher insisted that he's back to 100 percent, but said his leg and ankle still got pretty sore during practices in the spring, especially those involving heavy contact. He added that his leg would likely still be sore when he gets back to hitting this fall, and the pain might not ever go away during his playing career.
Even so, the chance to get back out there with his teammates, particularly in such a historic season with Nebraska's move to the Big Ten Conference, is something he's been working for every day for almost a full year.
"It's kind of like a double gain for me this year," Fisher said. "Joining the Big Ten, everyone is really excited obviously, but on top of that, not being able to participate last year, for me it feels even more special."
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