Sean Lissemore Finds His Post-NFL Calling as High School Athletic Director
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Sean Lissemore began playing football when he was just five years old — and has been around the game ever since.
"When I was five, my father came home with a flyer for Dumont Jr. football and asked me if I wanted to play," Lissemore said. "I said, ‘Sure I’ll give it a try.’
"It was tackle football. It was mostly kids just running into each other at that age. But it was a fun experience and I played ever since."
The Dumont, NJ native looks back fondly on the community that sprouted up around football in a small town.
"The great thing about growing up in a small town is we all knew each other," Lissemore said. "I remember all my coaches from youth football. And all of their sons played football, too, so I ended up playing with all of those guys all through high school."
At Dumont High School, Lissemore mas a multi-sport athlete. Along with patrolling the trenches as an offensive and defensive lineman and a linebacker, Lissmore was an all-league sprinter and thrower in track and field and a state medalist in wrestling.
Lissemore earned a scholarship to the College of William & Mary. After an All-CAA and All-American senior season, the defensive end was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Lissemore played three years for the Cowboys before being traded to the San Diego Chargers, where he played his final four seasons. In 2016, he was the Chargers' Salute to Service Award nominee.
"During my time in NFL I was always involved in the community," Lissemore said. "I loved to help out with the military, loved to help out with kids, whatever I could do."
After spending the 2016 season on injured reserve, Lissemore was a free agent in 2017. He thought about playing again, and worked out for a few teams that offseason. But eventually he thought better of it.
"It’s never an easy decision," Lissemore said. "But I didn’t think I could make it through a training camp."
So on his 30th birthday, he officially retired. After retirement, he moved back to the Dallas area to start out his post-football career.
First, Lissemore tried the business world. It was something he had an interest in after attending the NFL’s offseason business workshops.
But he missed something — sports.
"It was interesting, but I was missing a connection there," Lissemore said. "It took me a little while to put it together, but what I was missing was the element of sports and helping people."
Lissemore heard about an opening for athletic director at St. Mark’s High School in Dallas. "I didn’t know much about the school at the time, but an AD position has all of that — business, sports business, managing coaches, teams, budgets. It seemed like a good fit."
Lissemore was hired in July of 2019. But just a few months into the job, a tragedy struck the community.
"Sunday, October 20, a massive tornado hit," Lissemore said. "I heard there was damage to campus, but when I came to work (on Monday), I wasn’t sure what to expect.
"When I got off the exit of the highway, the closer I got to campus, the worse it got. It was devastation, houses destroyed, people wandering around. I couldn’t even get close to campus. I had to park my car and walk."
With the help of other schools in their conference, the St. Mark’s community was able to recover. Lissemore and the athletics program made it through the 2019 season. And in his third year on the job, Lissemore is guiding the athletics programs towards success — winning two conference titles this past fall.
While everything still isn’t totally back to normal, Lissemore said he's grateful for the community at St. Mark's.
"We’re going day by day," he said. "But I can’t say enough about the people at St. Mark’s. It’s just a great place to be."
Photo: AP/Alex Brandon
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