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Football Coach Remembers Plane Crash Victim

April 28, 2014, 5:30 PM by Brady Mallory

Football Coach Remembers Plane Crash Victim
DJ Fischer


While the Federal Aviation Administration tries to learn more about the small plane that crashed and killed four people, SDSU Head Football Coach John Stiegelmeier is thinking about a saying he teaches the players who step onto his field.

"Play like it's your last play," Stiegelmeier said.

It is something Donald "DJ" Fischer, who is one of the four men killed in the crash, learned while he was a football player at SDSU.  Fischer redshirted in 2001 and lettered from 2002 to 2005. 

"This is a tough loss," Stiegelmeier said.  "From my observation with his teammates, a great friend to many.  Just a lovable guy." 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the single-engine Piper was registered to Fischer of Gettysburg.  The crash was reported early Monday morning about five miles south of Highmore, which is 50 miles east of Pierre.  The wreckage is near a wind farm south of Highmore and a blade on one of the wind towers appears to be broken.  According to the FAA preliminary crash report, the aircraft hit the wind tower before crashing. 

The National Weather Service in Aberdeen reported fog and low clouds combined for reduced visibility in the Highmore-area Sunday night. Winds were out of the east at about 15 to 25 miles per hour and there were scattered showers, some of them heavy.

Stiegelmeier got the news early Monday morning.  He said the defensive tackle was serious and quiet.  He let his work ethic do the talking for him. 

"Anybody who works as hard as DJ Fischer worked, guys are going to look up to him.  That's kind of the trademark of being a Jackrabbit.  He was kind of a picture of that," Stiegelmeier said.

Fischer was an honorable mention all-Great West Football Conference selection as a junior in 2004.  He also earned all-state recognition in football at Gettysburg High School as a junior and senior.  The SDSU Football program is a big family, and right now players and colleagues who knew Fischer are leaning on each other for support.  It is easy to see the motto Stiegelmeier teaches his teams goes beyond the football field.

"The lesson to me, is, live like it's your last day.  I would say DJ did live his life like that.  He lived his life to the fullest," Stiegelmeier said.

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