Overcoming Obstacles and Becoming A Division 1 Athlete: The Story of Andrew Tisher

Andrew Tisher was like any other kid. Tisher grew up in Gainesville and spent time doing what most other young kids did—playing flag football, basketball, tee-ball, and soccer. However, he took a particular liking to football and soccer and kept playing throughout his childhood. Tisher started playing tackle football for Trinity United Methodist in eighth grade. Realizing the team already had depth at the wide receiver and quarterback positions and needed a kicker/punter, Tisher decided to use his soccer skills to his advantage and become a kicker. He kicked throughout his eighth-grade year. Once the season was over, he was excited to begin kicking for a high school team.

Beginning at Buccholz

Andrew Tisher began his high school career at Buccholz High School. As a freshman kicker and punter on JV, playing time was limited, and Tisher saw the field for only two snaps. While he was frustrated with the lack of playing time at Buccholz, Tisher faced an even bigger problem off the field.

Tisher was bullied at Buccholz. “On the JV team at Buccholz, I was a third-string kicker/punter, and the varsity and other junior varsity players really let me know about it … I never really understood why,” Tisher said. Tisher faced constant harassment and irritations by his teammates, making him even more frustrated playing for Buccholz. To make matters worse, Tisher was in a bad relationship at the time and also faced judgment from those close to his then-girlfriend. “I fell into a long stage of depression for a while, and I did have thoughts of taking my life. It was a pretty harsh cycle,” Tisher said.

With limited playing time, constant harassment, and depression, Tisher felt he needed a change. Transfering to Gainesville High School had been on his mind for some time, and after his first semester at Buccholz, Tisher decided it was time to go, saying, “My best friend convinced me that it could only get better for me if I changed schools.”

Becoming A Hurricane

After transferring to Gainesville, Tisher knew that football was still a top priority for him. So he immediately started kicking for the Hurricanes, participating in the team’s spring football games. To help adjust to a new school, Tisher reconnected with friends he knew at Gainesville and cut off his connections with Buccholz. With a new setting and playing the sport he loved, Tisher felt things were moving in the right direction.

Andrew Tisher (No. 99) preparing to punt for Gainesville

A pivotal moment in Tisher’s football career was when he met Alex Hood. Hood was the kicker directly above Tisher at Gainesville, and Hood helped guide him through the position. The difference between kickers and other positions is that fewer kicking coaches are around. So most kickers and punters mainly learn about the position through their teammates. As Hood puts it, “The tough thing about high school kicking and punting is that there are very few coaches and if you want one, you usually are paying a hefty hourly fee or traveling to an expensive camp for professional training. So what ends up happening is knowledge gets passed down from the older guys to the younger guys since most schools do not have a coach who actually knows anything about kicking.”

Hood recognized that Tisher was passionate about his position, saying, “The first thing that I noticed was how eager he was to learn and the positive and inquisitive attitude he had. He was always looking for tips on technique and continued to work every day, even though the odds were really stacked against him.” Through his desire to improve and learn from his teammates, Tisher began making a rapid ascension in his kicking game. Tisher credits a large part of his success to Hood’s teachings, saying, “Hood taught me everything. If I weren’t learning from him so early on, I’d probably not make it to college sports.”

With a new environment and a helpful leader in Hood, Tisher quickly progressed his kicking skills. By the time Tisher began his junior season, Hood had graduated, leaving a vacant kicking spot open. Gainesville Head Coach Dock Pollard saw the development of Tisher’s skills and gave him the starting role.

Injury Setbacks

With Tisher now starting for the Hurricanes at the beginning of his junior season, things seemed to be looking good. However, three games into the season, Tisher noticed that he was losing power and form. Confused by the decline, Tisher began missing games due to back pain. Eventually, his injury was so severe he had to vacate his spot as the starting kicker for the entire season.

After the end of the season, Tisher decided to get some medical attention to see what may be the problem. After an MRI from UF Orthopedics, doctors discovered that he had two herniated discs in his back. Also, his L4 vertebrae was cracked in his spine. While this injury was profound, all Tisher could focus on was getting back to kicking. He spent the next months dedicating his time to rehabilitating his back.

Andrew Tisher showcasing his skills at a kicking camp (Photo from Max Preps)

After spending the rest of his fall and the beginning of spring healing his back, Tisher was fortunate enough to return to the field to start the spring football season. Once he got back on the field, Tisher made sure to make an impact at every possible moment, which garnered the attention of college teams. “Spring season went great. I went to tons of camps and earned a four-star ranking, placing me in the top 50 punters in America. Soon after earning the ranking, the spring game followed, where I absolutely balled out. I had several 50, 55, and 60-yard punts in that game, including an 85-yard punt,” Tisher said.

Even Tisher’s teammates were impressed with his resilience and comeback. Gainesville long snapper Connor Diven said, “His ability to bounce back was great. He was able to go to some camps with me over the summer and punted well despite having an injured back.”

As his senior season began, everything was moving in the right direction. Tisher’s dominance on the field during the spring led multiple Power 5 colleges to be in contact with him. Teams such as North Carolina, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Coastal Carolina had Tisher on their radar. But then, disaster struck again. Two weeks before the first fall preseason game, Tisher injured his back again, in the same fashion as before. “The MRI showed I had redone everything that had healed before, and I would miss more time starting the season off,” Tisher said. This was a massive blow for the kicker, as the momentum he had going into the season had to stop abruptly for a lingering injury.

But Tisher had been in this situation before. He had picked himself up from this same injury before and proved that he could still be a high-level kicker. He knew he could make it back as long as he stayed dedicated to rehab and football. While working hard to heal his back, Tisher also guided his kicking teammates, just as Alex Hood had done to him before. “For weeks at practice, I would coach the kickers and punters we had behind me to fill in as best they could. Eventually, after what felt like forever, I was allowed to return to practice, although my timeline for returning to the field was spotty,” Tisher said.

Tisher finally got his first senior season start against Ridgeview High School on October 21, 2021. However, he only participated in punting due to the pain the twist of a kick caused his back. As a result, Tisher didn’t see too much of the field against Ridgeview, as Gainesville’s dominating 49-7 victory over the Panthers did not call for much punting. But, when Tisher did take snaps, he performed excellently, pinning a punt on the opponent’s 3-yard line.

Tisher played one more game against St. Augustine before ending his high school football career. To say Andrew Tisher’s high school football career was unorthodox would likely be an understatement. Rarely do players transfer schools, overcome injuries and still find success. But Andrew’s astounding ability to preserve these obstacles is nothing short of inspiring.

Continuing His Career

Once his high school football career had ended, Tisher knew that he wanted to continue playing the sport he loved. Unfortunately, Tisher’s lingering injury issues denoted some schools from recruiting him further. Still, Tisher’s 4-star ranking spoke for itself, and many schools were still pursuing him to join their squad.

Stetson University, a Division 1 school, located in DeLand, Florida, had Tisher on their radar for years. Tisher first came in contact with Stetson as a freshman when he attended a kicking camp hosted on Stetson’s campus. “When the camp ended, I remember myself saying the campus was very cool, and I bet it would be nice going to college there,” Tisher said. Fast forward to his senior season, he reached out to the program to see if the Hatters were interested in a kicker. Tisher was directed to the athletic training center to see if any coaches happened to be around. By pure chance, he ran into then newly-hired head coach Brian Young and running backs coach Harry Richards.

The two coaches gave Tisher a tour of the facilities, took down his information, and kept in contact with him. Stetson kept steady contact with Tisher at the start of the season. Soon after, the Hatters’ starting kicker entered the transfer portal, and Stetson was eager to fill his spot. But, as stated earlier, Tisher re-injured his back early in the season, and many schools recruiting him split. However, things were different with Stetson. The staff was aware of Tisher’s injury, yet they still kept in contact with him and expressed the team’s need for him. During the season, Stetson’s offensive line coach Jake Reed visited Tisher at Gainesville High School and ensured him that he was a top priority of Stetson. A few weeks after Reed’s visit, Tisher received an offer from the team.

Making It Official

Once Tisher received his offer from Stetson, he visited the campus for weeks and attended the team’s home games as a recruit. Excited about being a Division 1 athlete for a school he wanted to be a part of, Tisher committed to Stetson on January 12, 2022. About a month later, on February 2, Tisher formally signed his letter of intent to play for Stetson.

“This was a very exciting time for me as I was meeting all the players on the team and my soon to be new coaches leading up to signing day. On National Signing Day, I signed to Stetson and hopped on a call with coach Reed and coach Richards and they congratulated me on signing and said they were excited to get to work,” Tisher said.

Andrew Tisher officially signing his letter of intent to Stetson
Andrew Tisher embracing his father after signing to Stetson

Tisher will begin his football career at Stetson this coming fall. Not only does Tisher hope to just play for the team, but he also wants to leave a legacy. “At Stetson, I’m looking forward to joining a winning program and a winning tradition. That school has lots of history and tons of traditions. I’m very excited to attend the school, even if I was just a regular student. I’m aiming to graduate from the university and stay on the team as a graduate assistant coach, and from there work my way up the coaching ladder to eventually become a high-level special teams coordinator,” Tisher said.

Alex Hood, the teammate who guided Tisher the most to his kicking success, truly believes that Tisher’s work ethic will guide him in his career. “I really think that with the commitment he has to his craft, he’s going to be able to do great things at Stetson and win a starting job. He improved so much over just the past couple of years, and if he can keep up the pace, he could really be an elite punter and kicker,” Hood said.

Andrew Tisher’s inspiring story proves that anything is achievable if you are passionate about something and dedicated enough. Through battling mental and physical health, Tisher was able to push through all obstacles life presented him and still accomplished his greatest goals. Tune into Stetson football games this fall to catch Tisher on the field. The Hatters’ first game is on September 3, 2022.

About Alex Winn

Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida.

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