Florida State's Jimbo Fisher not perfect, just a man of faith

by Will Hall, |
Following Florida State's 31-27 win over Notre Dame on Oct. 18, ESPN captured Coach Jimbo Fisher giving fatherly advice to controversial star quarterback Jameis Winston: "Now here's what you've got to do. Calm down, don't give them ... act very passive right here and get people back on your side. Do you understand what I'm telling you? Humble, humble pie. | Screen Capture/ESPN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Christian Examiner) – In an indepth write-up about Jimbo Fisher's complex relationship with his controversial but talented quarterback Jameis Winston, ESPN makes note of Fisher's love of Christ.

It is a picture that bares some rough nature, but also affirms the role faith plays in his life.

Describing the interaction between Winston and Fisher in terms of father-son roles, writer Elizabeth Merrill uses examples of former players to try and explain Fisher's frustrations and his loyalty to Winston – much like a father with high expectations of a talented child who achieves highs in athletics but lows in behavior.

All star cornerback Greg Reid, who played for FSU from 2009-2011, is one of those who fell short of expectations because of poor decisions. Jimbo's relationship with the athlete began with Fisher's convincing display of his faith with Reid's mother.

"Many smooth-talking coaches had passed through Reid's hometown of Valdosta, and they all started sounding the same," Merrill noted. "But when Fisher knelt down with Reid's mom, Diane Hart, for Sunday service at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, she was sold. Hart, a single mother, believed in Fisher's faith [and] that he would take care of her son."

Reid would play for FSU during Bobby Bowden's last year as head coach and Fisher's first and next. But Reid was let go the before his senior season after Fisher unsuccessfully fought with FSU officials to keep Reid when he was arrested for possession of marijuana.

Fisher called to break the news to Reid's family, crying, Merrill reported. "He could hardly even talk," a Reid family friend said. "He was upset. He loved Greg."

But, while Fisher's faith is the foundation of his character and evident in the love he shows for his players, the ESPN article also reveals some flaws.

Christian Ponder, winner of the 2010 Fellowship of Christian Athlete's Bobby Bowden Athlete of the Year Award for being "a faith model in the community, in the classroom and on the field," experienced the fierceness of Fisher's drive despite both being men of God. He endured Fisher's cussing, Merrill offered, but learned to tune out the negative energy and focus on processing what Fisher wanted him to do.

For his part, Ponder brushed off Fisher's gruff demeanor in terms of a spanking, saying Fisher "treats everyone like his own kids. It's almost like a father-son relationship there."

Fisher's pastor at Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Bob Tindale, told ESPN Fisher is truly trying to do what is right in pushing players to do their best, holding them accountable, but also standing up for them.

"That may be stricter than people think at times," Tindale said, " and much more lax at times, but he's going to do what he thinks is right and is really not going to be swayed by public opinion."

Part of the complicated nature of his relationships with his players is he is protective of family, and his players are family – even the ones who stray, Tindale offered.

This sense of family and pushing others to do better and be better comes across in Fisher's explanation about his faith.

The FSView, an independent student newspaper at FSU, published a 2012 piece about a talk with the campus Catholic Student Union where Fisher shared a little about his upbringing that brings this point into focus.

Fisher grew up on a farm in West Virginia and knew hard work all his life, according Jordana Bilardello who authored the article. His father was a coal miner and his mother a school teacher, and they made sacrifices so he and his brother could have it better than the parents had it growing up, she said.

"The most important people in my life [growing up] were my parents," Fisher shared. "They gave me the ambition and desire to go on and try to do something. They believed in me sometimes when I didn't even believe in myself."

"Make your life make a difference," he continued. "If you make a difference for one person, that's enough. One person can't save everybody but you can save one [...] I think that's the important thing. We are on this earth to make a difference."

He also told the students to pursue their dreams and not fear that goals may be out of reach, Bilardello noted.

"God has put us here for a reason," he told them. "As we grow, I think those reasons become more abundantly clear. He gives you signs and He gives you direction. I think it is very important that you follow that direction and you're not scared to follow it."

"God has a way of doing things," he said in closing. "He hit me and knocked me down. But I'm gonna tell you something, I'm gonna live. It's tough. I'm not gonna lie, it's tough. But He brings it to people who can handle it. And I believe that whole-heartedly. If I didn't, I couldn't get through the day."

In finding forgiveness he is driven to forgive, he indicated. In getting through challenges with God's strength and inspiration, he is inspired to push others to get through.

Jimbo Fisher is not a perfect man but a forgiven man -- and by all accounts, a man of faith.

The number two Seminoles are slated to play the third-ranked Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl on January 1, in their bid to move on in the inaugural NCAA College Football Playoff.