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DAVID FITZGERALD: Attitude, determination help lineman through injury

Bobby Griffin | Friday, November 18, 2005

David Fitzgerald had a decision to make during the summer.

The senior offensive guard broke his wrist last spring, but doctors overlooked the severity of the injury and cleared him to play. Fitzgerald only made the injury worse when he played on it throughout spring practices.

Then, towards the end of the year, Fitzgerald was told his wrist had not fully healed and that he would need surgery. That was only the beginning.

“It was supposed to be a 90-minute procedure, and instead in turned into like nine hours on the table for two days,” Fitzgerald said.

Even with the long operation, the bone failed to heal. His doctors offered him an ultimatum – undergo a final operation and miss his senior season or play with a cast.

It didn’t take long for Fitzgerald to choose the second alternative.

“I said, ‘Well cast it up, one more year I can make it through,'” Fitzgerald says. “I’ll have to have an operation probably when the year is over but that remains to be seen.”

At least his attitude is consistent.

Fitzgerald has been used mostly as a scout team player over his four years at Notre Dame and is used to sacrificing himself for his team. The greatest lesson he has learned playing for the Irish is to always keep a focused attitude regardless of the circumstances.

“Just keep fighting and if you keep working hard things will break for you eventually,” Fitzgerald said. “Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but just keep plugging away.

“We all got our roles to play and we just go and do whatever we can to help the team.”

Fitting words from a senior who – like many Notre Dame students – grew up cheering for the Irish.

Fitzgerald did not start playing football until high school. He grew up in a small town (Godfrey, Ill.) about 400 miles south of Notre Dame. The Marquette Catholic standout had 117 tackles, nine sacks, six fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked punt during his senior year.

Around this time he began getting offers to play Division-I football, including one from Boston College. But when Notre Dame came calling in the spring during his senior year, everything else went out the window.

“I grew up as a Notre Dame fan, and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to end up,” Fitzgerald said. “I probably had a better chance of playing [at Boston College] if I had gone there but you cant pass up Notre Dame, so when I got that chance I just jumped at it.”

Fitzgerald has had more of an opportunity this year to get on the field. The offensive guard has played in games against Purdue, BYU, Tennessee and Navy.

“We’ve had some good games, so we’ve all had a little more [playing] time,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is unsure of what he will do once he graduates, but he knows that coaching football is not in his future – at least for the time being. Instead he plans on using his finance degree to get a job and possibly move to Chicago.

Whatever Fitzgerald chooses, he has proven that he has character and knows how to sacrifice himself for others.

Just consider his wrist.