It’s all football all the time in Omaha, Nebraska. But that wasn’t always the case at Tim Semisch’s house.
Throughout his career, the recently retired National Football League tight end always had a wandering eye when it came to the sport of lacrosse. Semisch took that love to the next level recently, as he participated in the National Lacrosse League Combine in Colorado. It’s something he dreamed about doing since picking up a stick at an early age, despite not growing up in a lacrosse hotbed.
“Football is king,” Semisch, 27, said. “Lacrosse was a relatively new sport when I was growing up. Even still today, if you walk down the street with a lacrosse stick, people are going to be like ‘What the heck is that thing?’”
Marching to the beat of his own drum, Semisch tried unsuccessfully to avoid the bright Friday night lights by pursuing lacrosse and ice hockey, while wearing a football helmet and shoulder pads during his high school years. But limited lacrosse resources in Nebraska gave Semisch basically no chance at a college scholarship. His high school, Millard North in Omaha, had just started a program and often had to cross the Iowa state line to find opponents. Knowledgeable coaches were also scarce, and the program has since disbanded.
“Back then, we didn’t have coaches that actually played,” Semisch said. “We just had some guys watching videos and reading books. My overall lacrosse IQ back then was probably atrocious. And if a (college) coach did like me for my size, they would ask me where I was from. I’d say ‘Omaha, Nebraska’ and then I’d never hear from them again.”
It drove Semisch into a coaching role at an early age. Due to lack of support from adult coaches, he became an assistant coach of his own high school team during his junior year. Semisch was then handed the reins the next year as a head coach along with one of his teammates. Semisch ran practices and was also the team treasurer while preparing to receive his high school diploma. The team relied on adult supervision only when necessary.
“On game days, we just had one of the parents show up and stand on the sidelines and act as coach,” Semisch said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, the high school football scene thrived. Semisch continued playing all three sports and became a star player on the gridiron. The interest from college football coaches began to increase around him.
“It was a pretty low shot to get recruited for lacrosse and I knew that,” Semisch said. “Once I got a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger and played more varsity football, letters started coming in and coaches were calling so I thought I guess I’m going for football.”
Semisch took a scholarship at Division 1 Northern Illinois University and became a key blocking tight end for the Huskies, playing 50 games in four years. His size (6-foot-8, 267 lbs.) attracted professional scouts although he went undrafted.
“I wasn’t a star at Northern Illinois by any stretch,” Semisch said. “We ran the ball a lot so I just blocked. I did pro day at Northern more on a whim and I didn’t go to one of those big training facilities. But that led to a tryout with the (Miami) Dolphins.”
Semisch traveled to the Sunshine State with low expectations.
“I literally brought a backpack,” he said. “It was a two-day thing, and they said that in the off-chance they liked me, maybe they’d sign me.”
Semisch never left. He ended up signing a contract with the Dolphins and parlayed it into a four-year football career, suiting up on practice squads for the San Diego Chargers, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos in addition to the Dolphins before calling it quits in December.
Four cities in four years became too much to handle and it led Semisch back to lacrosse and the NLL Colorado Combine on July 13.
“It was cool to be out there and see the full formal setup of what box lacrosse really should be,” Semisch said. “Every time I played in a semi-pro tournament or a men’s league, it was at a Skateland or something not meant for box lacrosse. So, it was great to be out there on that turf with those nets and the actual lines and benches that were meant for the transition game.”
Transitioning to the indoor game was eye-opening, but not totally out of his comfort zone.
“Growing up playing hockey, inside of the boards, I feel pretty comfortable,” Semisch said. “Now it’s just on turf.”
Semisch plans to go all-out if he gets a tryout with an NLL team. Regardless, he plans to be around the game of lacrosse at some level. He currently teaches youth lacrosse in Tennessee and is a strength coach, speed coach and personal trainer.
“If playing lacrosse doesn’t work out, I’ll probably ride off into the sunset and go into coaching,” he said. “At the end of the day, I see myself making a life by coaching lacrosse or being around lacrosse more than I see myself around football.”
The next step is another combine or hopefully a team tryout. He’s taking only a backpack with him, but that doesn’t mean he plans on leaving.
“Actually, I think that’s my good luck charm,” Semisch said. “Bring a backpack, hope for the best, buy some clothes or have some shipped to me in a duffle bag. I would be fully intent on making a team though. I would have every intention of being on that floor in December and helping whoever picks me up to win games and make that team better.”