Northwestern University’s best football player was “in limbo” when the Big Ten season was canceled earlier this summer due to the coronavirus.
Paddy Fisher, a redshirt senior linebacker, is an NFL prospect and one of only ten players to receive pre-season honors from the Big Ten Conference.
In a Zoom news conference this morning, Fisher told reporters he considered, “Should I stay, should I leave? I wanted to play.”
Fisher said, “I had to grasp my emotions and feelings” in making the decision. He received some advice from his mom: “Follow your heart.” If the Big Ten followed through with pushing the season to early 2021 or with cancelling it completely, Fisher might have left the team to focus on an NFL future.
But with the season reinstated for the fall, Fisher will be on the field next Saturday evening when the Wildcats open the abbreviated Big Ten slate against Maryland.
Four of Fisher’s teammates opted out of playing this year: Defensive lineman Samdup Miller, quarterback Aidan Smith, tight end Jason Whitaker and safety Travis Whillock.
Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said specific reasons for the opt-outs will not be released, as it was a private matter. He said the four players made their decisions before fall camp began. “We wish them nothing but the best, we’re 100 percent behind them,” he added.
Fisher said he did talk with his friend Whillock, who told him “he’s in a very good place mentally, physically, and emotionally” about his decision to “put football aside.”
“I fully support him, ” Fisher said.
The Big Ten 2020 will have eight regular season games, all in-conference, followed by the Big Ten championship, and a bonus game for all the other teams.
The Wildcats kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Ryan Field. Tickets will not be available to the general public. Players’ and coaches’ family members from both teams will be allowed to attend. NU estimates that at around 1,000 to 1,100 people.
Coach Fisher said, “It’s been a long road to get here.” Instead of choosing captains for the entire season, Fisher said four captains will be picked for each week, just in case someone can’t play. These are “unprecedented times,” he said. “I hope and pray nobody gets a positive test.”