It’s been nearly a decade since Tom Fisher last roamed the sidelines, but his name won’t soon be forgotten at Zephyrhills High School.
The school’s Oct. 27 homecoming festivities added greater significance, when Zephyrhills’ Bulldog Stadium was formally renamed “Tom Fisher Field.”
The dedication ceremony, held at midfield and attended by Fisher, drew dozens of former players and coaches, as well as the longtime coach’s family members and friends.
Thousands of Bulldogs faithful, were there, too — in a show of respect for Fisher, who retired after the 2008 season, following 21 years as head coach.
He is the football program’s winningest coach (124-86), leading Bulldogs teams to eight playoff berths, four conference championships and three district titles; he also was a four-time conference coach of the year.
Fisher, now 65, still attends several Zephyrhills games each year, sometimes wishing he was still donning a headset and calling plays.
“I miss it a lot,” Fisher said, “but, all these great kids that I’ve coached over the years, for them to come back, I really appreciate it.”
Not one to wax poetic about his coaching career, Fisher said many of the 20 years “all blend together.”
“Working with the kids was great; football’s been my life,” he said.
As coach, Fisher influenced hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
Among them is current Bulldogs coach Nick Carroll, who has guided the program to two consecutive eight-win seasons — including Friday night’s 62-0 romp of Hudson High School.
Carroll was apart of Fisher’s 1996-1997 playoff team.
He has vivid memories of that season.
“We had a lot of success; won a lot of football games. For us to get the first playoff win for him, it was a special moment for him, and for us,” Carroll said.
Fisher’s coaching demeanor isn’t lost on Carroll, either.
“He was old-school, man,” Carroll said. “You didn’t mess with coach Fisher. If his lip ever curled, he was mad.”
“I didn’t cause him no trouble,” he added.
Carroll noted several of his assistants, including B.J. Booker, Bryan Thomas and Troy Hochstetler, also played for Fisher at some point.
“They say great leaders develop great leaders, so there’s four of us right there that have come back and kind of stepped in his role, and made a chance to—not build it—but have success the first two years we came here to Zephyrhills.”
Reggie Roberts, who coached the Bulldogs from 2010 to 2015, was another former player—and team captain — of Fisher’s.
Roberts, now a captain with the Zephyrhills Police Department, recalls Fisher as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense coach.
“Those were the days when you didn’t have water breaks every 30 minutes — and we had to grind,” Roberts said. “Sometimes as we grow up, we always have people that mold us, and he was one of them, especially coming back here to coach, you bet that was the first phone call I made.”
But, Roberts also remembers Fisher for his acumen and attention to detail.
“You’re talking about somebody that studied game film—he was a student of the game,” Roberts said.
“I wish when I was coaching I could be half as good as he was watching video and actually coming up with a game plan. He was excellent at that. We may not have been as talented as a lot of people, but we played a lot better than a lot of people because we were prepared. That’s one thing I can say about him — he got us prepared.”
The Pasco County School Board approved the field renaming in June, after the idea was presented by Zephyrhills school officials.
Zephyrhills High School athletic director Bruce Cimorelli said it was about time Fisher received “a real good sendoff.”
“He deserves it quite a bit,” Cimorelli said.
“Tom did a great job. He took a mentoring to the kids. He was a great person to work for, so it’s something that’s well-deserved.”
Tom Fisher: By the numbers
124 wins (most in school history)
Eight playoff appearances
Four conference championships (1989, 1995, 1997, 2002)
Four district titles (1995, 2002, 2006)
Four Conference Coach of the Year awards (1989, 1994, 1995, 1997)
Published November 1, 2017