Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher has no problem with dual-sport athletes

COLLEGE STATION — In an age of snowballing specialization, parents and private coaches steering youngsters to a single sport before they’re teenagers, Jimbo Fisher says it’s all about expanded fantasies.

“Why do you want to punish someone for being good at two things?” wondered Fisher, the fifth-year football coach at Texas A&M. “It’s selfish of us.”

His message? It’s all very well, mom and dad, that the children practice two sports (or more!). Fisher said he’s been a fan of high school and even college kids participating in at least two sports, because that’s exactly what he did at his home in Clarksburg, W.Va.

“I played all sports growing up,” he said.

That is, all the majors – football, basketball and baseball. Fisher briefly played baseball at Clemson before settling on his true love, football, at Salem and then Samford.

The two-sport issue arose this spring because Fisher was missing running back Devon Achane and starting center Bryce Foster for the Aggies’ annual spring game on April 9. Instead of lamenting their absence, Fisher praised Achane’s sprint times for A&M’s famed track team and the impressive shot putter Foster’s kick on the “court” side of things.

“I’m happy for these guys,” Fisher said. “…We should be able to solve the problem and figure it out for the best development of this young man. You sacrifice a bit when it comes to development, but overall it’s about the kids.

What is lacking in the development of one sport is more than made up for by the competitive advantages of the second sport, Fisher believes. He believes that if a score is kept and the juices are flowing and wins and losses are on the line, those are collectively more important in the long run than extra off-season work in a main sport.

“If they’re good at two sports, it’s not their fault,” said Fisher, who also believes that if they’re only average at one effort, they should focus on one sport. “Why shouldn’t they do it, that’s how I see it.”

Fisher’s all-time example of excelling at both may always be quarterback Jameis Winston at Florida State. In the spring of 2013, Winston, then a true freshman who had worn a redshirt the previous fall under Fisher, completed 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards in the Seminoles’ annual spring game, including a 58 touchdown. yards on his first sling.

Winston, also a power pitcher, then took a shower and walked on the concrete to Dick Howser Stadium in his baseball uniform, where he hit for FSU against Duke in a baseball game. ACC on the same day (finishing 1 for 2 at the plate) .

“Jameis was a great example of that,” Fisher said of the rare ability to shine in two sports in college. “He was going to be a first or second round guy in baseball, just like he was with football. It could have gone either way.

Later that fall, Winston led the football team to the 2013 national title, and just over a year later was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Foster and Achane at the start of their college career plans as high NFL draft picks and will likely make most of their money playing football.

But that hasn’t diminished their love for athletics in the meantime.

“Jimbo and I were at LSU at the same time,” said A&M track and field coach Pat Henry, who was the Tigers’ head coach at the same time Fisher was assistant to LSU football coach Nick Saban. . “We had a relationship and we recruited these types of guys to LSU. If you start this and it… snowballs, then (suddenly) you’re bringing in some really talented guys who are elite in athletics and great at football.

“You bring one hell of an athlete.”

True A&M freshman quarterback Conner Weigman qualifies on that front, in football and baseball (and so does Winston). Fisher thought Weigman, who graduated early from Bridgeland High to participate in this year’s spring drills, would want to be an infielder for the A&M baseball team this spring, but Weigman chose to play a sport. both early in his college career.

“When I first signed him, I assumed he was staying (at Bridgeland) to play baseball, because he’s an important baseball player and could have (have been) a really high draft pick. “Fisher said of the upcoming baseball draft. “But he told me from the start, ‘Coach, I want to be a footballer first and then play baseball. “”

Weigman, a five-star quarterback, is in a close fight for A&M’s starting gig with junior Max Johnson and second Haynes King, and maybe he’ll play baseball for the new A&M coach. A&M Jim Schlossnagle in 2023. Either way, Weigman knows he has Fisher’s backing to throw two pretty different balls in college.

“He loves football and wants to play baseball,” Fisher said of his firm endorsement of Weigman’s ultimate plan. “I like guys from both sports – really.”

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