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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Thomas Fidone II Growing Into Leadership Role After Anticipated Spring

July 09, 2023

Husker fans anticipated No. 24’s spring game showing for months. The former No. 1 tight end from across the river never got a chance before. He’d only appeared in one game throughout two years, bookended by injuries. Two seasons cut down by bad luck and safety precautions. He was ready to be back. Fans gave Thomas Fidone II a round of applause following his only catch of the Red-White Game, a 4-yard reception.

Fidone fought to get that far. Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule limited Fidone at the start of spring ball. Persistence from the Council Bluffs native paid off, allowing him to practice with fewer limitations as spring camp went on.

“I got to be less limited than I think he would have liked but I was fine with it,” Fidone told Jessica Coody last month. “And it helped me take big strides mentally and physically, help me where I need to be in preparation for this upcoming fall camp and season. And also getting chemistry with the teammates being able to be out there.”

The former top tight end recruit is now even closer to seeing the field. He’s completely healthy, fully cleared, for the first time as a Husker. He took a few minutes away from filming HuskerVision hype videos to speak with Coody about his recovery. A hoarse throat, potentially from truly yelling his excitement to the cameras, was his only ailment at the time.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “It’s something different and something you dream of coming into college and something I haven’t been able to experience yet but finally being here and being able to experience it, it’s very exciting and it makes me excited for the upcoming season.”

He couldn’t describe the feeling of completing the spring fully healthy. That accomplishment should be standard, and often is, but for him it was exciting. Frankly, it was amazing. Now it’s something he’s determined to make a tradition. With a clean bill of health comes maturity. He’s not shaken by the speed of college football, noting his growth both mentally and physically. He said he’s learned to make mistakes going full speed rather than with indecision. That, along with confidence from the head coach, gave himself confidence. Their somewhat butting heads regarding his spring limitations was born out of an immediate connection.

“I think that helped us hit it off and it’s a huge thing to have my head coach be confident in me,” Fidone said. “I felt like it’s something that I’ve always had. But I’m a lot closer to coach Rhule than I could have imagined with him only being here a certain amount of time. It’s definitely really nice.”

His injury-plagued two seasons still make him one of the veteran presences in the tight end room. He complimented Arik Gilbert, Jake Appleget, John Goodwin and Nate Boerkircher on their work in the spring. Fidone said he’d often encourage Boerkircher and his proximity to a scholarship. Following spring ball, Rhule placed Boerkircher on scholarship. Fidone called the decision a long time coming. Then there’s the young players in the room that Fidone and the older Huskers are taking under their wing.

Blessed with a fresh start, felling the best he’s felt since high school, Fidone’s grown into a leadership role. It started in winter workouts and carries into the summer. His leadership style involves leading by example. He hopes to set good examples going forward as the team becomes player-led. Fidone said the team can transition into its player-owned status by doing little things, the undesirable things, without encouragement. Catching balls from a jugs machine or catching balls, even down to regeneration sessions when they could use it as free time.

Someone who’s been through everything he has certainly has a lot of life experience to share with his teammates.

“I can’t think that I own the team,” he said. “And I still have everyone’s respect but you kind of have to take it lightly, you can’t just yell at everybody and tell them what to do and what not to do.

“Like I said, you have to lead by example. And when they see you doing the right thing they’re going to follow and you’re going to become the leader the right way. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far and obviously I have a lot of work to do in that regard.”

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