Fitzpatrick stands out on scout team
Sam Stryker | Thursday, November 15, 2012
When Notre Dame beat Michigan for the first time since 2008 on Sept. 22, the Irish had prepared for victory long before they took the field against the Wolverines. Part of that groundwork fell on the shoulders of senior receiver Nick Fitzpatrick, who played Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson on the scout team in practice, helping ready the Irish defense for the shifty Wolverines signal-caller.
“Part of it was watching film and understanding their scheme, but the other part of it is he is a dynamic football player that can do anything at any time,” Fitzpatrick said. “He can throw the ball, he can run the ball, he makes plays when there is no play to be made.”
Fitzpatrick said portraying Robinson entailed not only studying the Michigan quarterback’s on-the-field habits, but also enacting them in practice.
“Part of it was preparing throughout the week, and the other part of it was going out there and playing with your instincts and trying to make high-risk, high-reward plays,” he said. “I thought we did a good job, the offense in general.”
The accounting major from Mishawaka, Ind., said portraying the athletic Wolverines quarterback was an incredible experience.
“It was a blast,” he said. “I mean, any time you get to go out there and play quarterback, give a look for one of the most dynamic players in college football and go up against one of the best defenses in college football, it was a unique opportunity and a lot of fun.”
A former resident of Dillon Hall, Fitzpatrick walked on to the team as a sophomore in August of 2010. His older brother D.J. Fitzpatrick was a kicker and punter with the Irish and graduated in 2005, and his grandfather also attended the University. Fitzpatrick said attending Notre Dame had always been a dream growing up.
“It’s a place I always knew I wanted to be, and football was kind of icing on the cake,” he said.
A kicker, receiver and cornerback at Marian High School, Fitzpatrick nearly was a kicker for the Irish, but instead walked on as a receiver, something the team needed at the time.
“As a walk-on, you never know what your role is going to be and it is always changing. So any way you can contribute to the team is a success,” he said. “It’s different for each guy, but I feel I have contributed in a lot of different ways. I feel pretty good about what I have accomplished so far.”
Fitzpatrick said he has also enjoyed serving as a mentor for some of the younger players, especially helping fellow walk-ons understand their role with the Irish.
“They just need to understand whether or not they are going to start or never play a down, their roles are important,” he said. “It is always changing; they are always going to ask you to do different things at different times.
“When your name is called, your number is called, you need to go in there and contribute in an important fashion. You always need to be ready. That’s important for young guys to understand.”
Though Fitzpatrick said he does not feel there has been a definitive moment in his tenure with the team, he feels he has been able to contribute more and more during his time with the Irish.
“I think it has slowly built from day one. My role has become more and more valuable I guess I could say. I’m doing a lot now, playing a lot of different positions on scout offense,” he said. “When you go out there and contribute to something special and what we have done so far this year, it is certainly satisfying.”
An avid sportsman, Fitzpatrick said he enjoys his time on the golf course the most out of all his athletic pursuits, with Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., ranking as his favorite course he has ever played.
“I fancy myself an all-around athlete,” he said. “I play golf and I played basketball in high school. Golf is my go-to. I think I’m the best on the team.”
Though he does not play much during the football season, Fitzpatrick said he is looking forward to hitting the links more after the season is over.
“Golf is something I will continue to play for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s an important sport that can teach you a lot about yourself. I really enjoy it.”
Contact Sam Stryker at [email protected]