Clemson defender Kyle Fisher with referee Chris Penso
USA Today Sports

10 things about Kyle Fisher: ACC Defensive Player of the Year on MLS ambitions and living the dream at Clemson

Other MLS hopefuls
Brandon Vincent, Stanford LB

The biggest stars in college soccer are beginning their professional careers this week, as a group of 60 of the best players from the NCAA ranks are set to convene in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine.

Clemson center back Kyle Fisher will be on hand, and the projected first-rounder spoke to MLSsoccer.com about life on and off the field as he prepares for the SuperDraft on Jan. 14.

Fisher led Clemson to

… the College Cup final in 2015, but they finished runners-up to Stanford:

“We left off last year with winning the ACC Championship, and that was the first in [13] years for us. This year, we had new leaders, me being one of them, and then Andrew Tarbell and Paul Clowes, and we went into the offseason and asked, ‘OK, how do we duplicate that?’

“What we realized is that you can’t really try to replicate the success we had last year, so we just tried to go in and do things differently. … In training every day is where a lot of it was done. I’d say the training – I don’t know if I’d say it was higher than what it had been, but it was very good, and I think that had a lot to do with our success.”

The ACC Defensive Player of the Year

… and First Team All-America in 2015, Fisher (6-foot) isn’t the biggest center back, but prides himself on an ability to play out of the back:

“I’m a center back who likes to play soccer and likes to play out of the back, I’m very good in the air and, more than anything, I’m just a competitor. Every time I step out there, I’ll be competing, and I like to say that I’m well-rounded, too. I’m one of those guys who tries to do the simple things well and win my battles and compete, but I love balls in the air, for sure.”

Fisher and a pair of Clemson teammates

… are currently in Orlando, where they are training at Montverde Academy, an elite high school program coached by a former Tigers assistant, as part of their preparation:

“What I continued to do is work with our strength staff, who dedicated all their time to the four guys from our team going to the Combine. We’ve stayed in good shape and worked on a lot of the stuff like the 30-[meter dash] and the 5-10-5 [shuttle run], and also we’ve been out just knocking the ball around.

“But three of us are going to go down to Montverde, which is an academy in Orlando. It’s a high school, but they have some very good players; they have a player in MLS who signed straight out of high school named Matheus Silva. The coach down there is Mike Potempa, and so we’re going to jump in and do some team stuff in a camp leading up until we fly down from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale for the Combine.”

Born and raised in Easley, South Carolina

… Fisher grew up about 30 minutes away from Clemson’s campus, a big Tigers fan who served as a ball boy at Clemson soccer games as a kid:

“I grew up going to [Clemson] soccer games, I didn’t really go to many football games or basketball games or stuff like that, but I went to a lot of soccer games. That was a big reason why I wanted to come here. It’s kind of one of those things where you’re little and you have your eyes set on something, and it’s kind of like, ‘I wonder if I can do that?’ Then when you get the opportunity, you go and take that chance. It was great.”

Kyle Fisher

Watching several MLS players at Clemson

… Fisher has particularly fond memories of former New York Red Bulls winger Dane Richards:

“Probably the most memorable game I remember growing up was when they played in the Elite 8 at home, and Dane Richards was there on the team. They won to go to the College Cup, and it was pretty much the same exact kind of thing [that happened this year]. They won a close game, the students ran on the field after. It was same thing as it was this past year.”

Another Clemson alum in MLS

… supported Fisher and the Tigers through their Tournament run this fall:

“With me being a senior, having that same thing in the Elite 8 with the students rushing the field, it was cool. [Orlando City goalkeeper] Joe Bendik was there too, so it was just kind of neat. He came down to College Cup in Kansas City to support us, as well, [as did Amadou Dia and Phan Kavita.]”

Spent his entire life in South Carolina

… but Fisher is more than ready to experience the city life that comes with being on an MLS roster:

“I’m excited about it, more than anything. All the teams are in cities, which is awesome. That’s something I really like. I’m not like the typical South Carolinian, honestly. I like to go out in cities; my family is from Chicago – I’m the only one that was born here – so even going there is always cool.”

During Summer 2014, played for

… the Portland Timbers U-23s, giving him a taste of one MLS city:

“I played U-23s with Portland, and I was living there for 2-3 months over the summer. I really, really enjoyed it, just kind of getting out there. I think that’s really cool, and I’m ready for it to be the next step in my life.

“I would train with the U-23s in the morning and then after I would train some with the first team in spells, whenever they needed players and stuff. It was me and [San Jose Earthquakes midfielder] Fatai Alashe and [University of North Carolina and Jamaica international midfielder] Omar Holness who would go up and train with those guys; it was a ton of fun.”

Despite growing up hours away

from the nearest MLS team, Fisher still followed the league as a kid:

“I would watch it, but I never really had a favorite team or anything. The closest team for me growing up was D.C. I remember Jaime Moreno, the forward, and him being really good. But they’re 8-9 hours away [from my hometown]. But I did follow it. I would watch a decent amount when it was on TV, and I knew most of the older guys. It’s cool to see those guys are now coaches, and a lot of them are in the league, which is cool.”

Enjoys golf and basketball

… when he’s away from the soccer field

“If I get breaks in the summer or something, I enjoy going out playing a round of golf with some friends. I’m not a real big competitor in golf; I’m not going to get all mad if I don’t play great. It’s more of a get out there, have fun, enjoy it. Other than that, around where I live, in about 45 minutes you can get to the mountains, there’s a lot of fishing there. Then all the guys will hang out, play FIFA and stuff like that.

“I love basketball, too. Basketball is one of my favorite sports, and I think that kind of helps with playing center back. Jumping to head the ball and rebounding, boxing out, that’s something that I think is kind of a correlation.”

Series: