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For Wise, the hard part is over

Bulldog linebacker signs on with Newberry College

Posted: February 2, 2012 11:44 a.m.
Updated: February 3, 2012 5:00 a.m.

If a few minutes talking into a pair of tape recorders were to be the worst part of his post-high school football career, then the next five years should be a breeze for Fidel Wise.
Moments after the Camden High senior signed his national letter-of-intent to continue his academic and football careers at Newberry College, the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder was asked what part of moving on to the collegiate level made him the most nervous.
“This interview,” he said before breaking out into a full laugh.
That part of the process now behind him, Wise said he can now focus on the bigger picture which is to finish out his high school years before joining the Wolves for the start of Newberry’s 2012 football season later this summer.
Unlike many recruits who had more than one year to prove themselves to college coaches, Wise had just one shot in order to make a first and lasting impression.
Heading into his junior campaign, Wise was being looked to as a blocking back for senior tailback SaVonn Wingate. Before the start of pre-season practice, it was revealed that Wingate sustained a knee injury during Camden’s 2010 spring game which ended scrapped his final campaign. Then, in the first week of contract drills that summer, Wise suffered a broken leg leaving him to watch that season from the sidelines next to Wingate.
“It hurt a lot. I really wanted to be out there and be able to play,” he said of his lost junior year of football.
Camden head coach Jimmy Neal said that, as a junior, Wise was a player who could have and may been asked to play on either side of the football.
“We were kind of thinking two backs,” Neal said of his team’s offensive philosophy coming into the 2010 season, “but Fidel could have also played linebacker because he had done both. We thought that he could have been a really good fullback or a really good linebacker. Obviously, if you watched us play this year, you know that he is a very good linebacker. I thought he did a great job for us.”
Wise admitted to being a bit apprehensive as he strapped on the pads for the start of contact drills last spring. He said his worst fear was getting injured, again, when summer pre-season practice rolled around. He said all fears dissipated “after the first hit at camp.”
Wise did not stop hitting after that as he led the 2011 Bulldogs with 107 tackles, 66 of those solo stops. He was tied for second on the team with 12 tackles for loss of yardage. He also recovered three fumbles and broke up four passes from his inside linebackers’ post. By season’s end, Wise was selected to play in the North-South All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach.
Neal said the way in which Wise returned from injury spoke volumes as to his former player who was used in a back-up role as a sophomore.
“It showed that Fidel has a great deal of fortitude to be able to come back from a broken leg; he didn’t get to play a down as a junior,” he said.
Wise started garnering attention from colleges when coaches came to Camden to take in the Bulldogs’ 2011 spring practices. He then let his play on Friday nights do the rest. Had Wise been able to have played as a junior, Neal said there would have been even more schools clamoring to gain Wise’s services than did this past fall and into the first weeks of winter.
“Newberry is the beneficiary of all this,” Neal said of Wise’s only playing one full season of varsity football. “I’m not saying that he would not have gone there anyway, but there would have been a lot more interest in Fidel than there was if he would have played as a junior. But Newberry is a great fit for him. They’re excited about getting him. I think that it’s going to work well for him and them.
“I think this is a good choice for Fidel. Newberry is a great school. It’s going to be a great fit for him. We’re very happy for him. ”
Wise attracted the attention of several schools, including Big South programs Coastal Carolina and Presbyterian, among others. When he went for his official visit to Newberry, he said the Division II South Atlantic Conference member felt like it the right place for him to go to spend his college years.
“I liked it up there a lot when I went to visit. I think that it will be a good fit for me and a good place to play football,” he said.
Recruited by Newberry defensive coordinator and former Lugoff-Elgin assistant coach Stephen Flynn, Wise said he has been told that he will stay at middle linebacker for Todd Knight’s Wolves. Neal said should Newberry have more pressing needs, Wise is a player who can play more than one position.
“They’re excited about him as an inside linebacker. That’s where they think he is going to play,” Neal said. “We’ve always said that Fidel can be an H-back, a blocking type of a guy, a blocking tight end or a fullback. But with what they do, they really like him as a linebacker.”
Neal said Wise showed what he could do this past fall in not missing a beat from returning from his injury. The Bulldogs' head coach said Wise matured as a player and, as a person.
“He’s a definite run-stopper. When he hits them, they go down,” said the CHS head coach. “Fidel’s a very physical, very aggressive guy.
“He gave us more leadership than we expected. We didn’t know if he would be able to pick up our defense, but Coach (Ron) McKie did a really good job with Fidel in making sure that he knew where he was supposed to line up, where he was supposed to be and what we were supposed to do.
“He’s extremely solid and plays his position very well. He gave it to the team.”
Wise said he is glad to get another chance to play football and felt he would be able to play again not only as a high school senior, but at the next level.
 “I knew that it would come. I just had to go out and play the way I knew I could play,” he said of signing day.  “I’m just ready to play football again.”
Wise said the biggest change he needs to prepare for in college is the speed of the game and the size of the players he will go up against in practice and in games. And, it sounds as if Wise will get a year of seasoning before he plays in a game for the Wolves.
“I might get redshirted my freshman year because there are a couple seniors ahead of me,” he said when asked of possible playing time and when it would come. “After they leave I should be the man.”
Neal, a former assistant coach at Furman University before returning to his high school alma mater, said Wise and all freshmen would benefit from a year in which they would not play in a game and could get better acclimated to their new surroundings.
“I think it would be the best thing for him. I almost wish that they would almost mandate that, like they used to 35 years ago where everybody redshirts,” Neal said. “It would take all the pressure off of recruiting, take all the nonsense from that and would make it easier on the guys to where they would be more relaxed and pick where they want to guy instead of asking, ‘Where am I going to play from day one?’
“I think the redshirt deal is so much better for everybody, even if you’re good enough to play like most of them are, and Fidel is, too. He’s physically ready to play right now, but I think that it’s better for the whole academic and college life for him to do what he’s going to do (rdshirt.).”
For his part, Fidel Wise said he is prepared to play wherever and whenever the Wolves need him.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me,” he said of his position on the field. “I’m very excited and ... a little nervous.”
Then again, the last part that was when he was talking into a tape recorder and not when he was preparing to lay a hit on an opposing ball carrier.

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