BY MICHAEL KELLY
ROCHESTER — When Scott Fishel headed off to the Rochester Institute of Technology and started with the school’s physician’s assistant program, he knew it was possible his days as a soccer player were numbered.
That’s the way it goes for most student-athletes at RIT in his chosen field. But Fishel, a 2013 Niskayuna High School graduate, has bucked that trend.
“A lot of the time, because we’re basically grad students by our third year taking very difficult classes … people can only play their sport for two years and then they don’t make you quit, but they ask you to consider it.
“But,” he finished, “here I am.”
Now a junior at RIT, Fishel is not only still playing men’s soccer for the school while taking care of his academics, he’s excelling with both disciplines. On the field, Fishel is a well-respected captain for RIT, a tough defender who has started 15 games for a 7-10 squad through Nov. 1; off the field, Fishel is a model student who sports a 4.0 GPA in his rigorous course work.
Fishel starred for the Niskayuna High School boys’ soccer team before heading to RIT. For the Silver Warriors, he captained the 2012 squad while earning team MVP and first-team all-Suburban Council honors.
In high school, he found his academic path, too. He was always interested in joining the medical field while growing up — his father, Steve, is a doctor — but was focused on becoming a veterinarian until his late teens.
“I realized I was pretty good at the human body [sciences],” he said.
A college search led him to RIT after considering schools such as Nazareth College and Union College. While academics were his No. 1 concern in picking a college, finding a place where he could also continue his soccer career was important.
“I’ve been playing since I was 4,” he said. “It’s such a massive part of my life.”
Fishel said his mother, Cindy, cautioned him that it might be tough to pursue a physician’s assistant degree while playing soccer. He had a confident response.
“Nope, I know I can do it,” he told her. “I need to keep playing.”
There have been challenges for Fishel this year. Starting with this academic year, his schedule is locked in with no input from him because most of his courses have only one offering available. Sometimes, he said, he has to miss a soccer practice or two during the week, but his teammates are quick to forgive him for that.
“They rag on me a little bit here and there because that’s what we do as college guys, but it’s not too bad,” he said. “My teammates really know [what I’m doing] and I think they respect me for it.”
On the field, Fishel has scored twice this season and has helped to bring along a young team — RIT’s 30-man roster has only 10 juniors and seniors on it.
“We knew we were a young team coming into the season and … this year’s schedule might be a little harder than usual,” Fishel said. “We knew it would be tough early … and that, conference-wise, nobody gave us much credit — I think we were rated eighth out of nine — but we were always confident.”
Fishel said he plans to play soccer in his senior year, too, before graduating with his classmates in 2017. The next academic year, he said, will be spent performing clinical rotations before his “White Coat Ceremony” in 2018.
Between his soccer and studies, he said his college years have been jam-packed — just how he likes it.
“Honestly, I can’t believe I’m almost done with my third year,” he said.