Local walk-on takes legacy status to new level
Cole Schietinger | Thursday, November 21, 2013
It’s no secret that legacy students are a major part of the Notre Dame family. But for Nick Fitzgerald, the legacy extended beyond the classroom and onto the gridiron.
“I think in a sense, I had always been a Notre Dame fan growing up, but in particular, my brother, D.J. [Fitzpatrick], was a kicker and punter here, so that was a little extra incentive for me to come out and really contribute in any way,” he said.
Even before coming to Notre Dame, the walk-on had a close connection with the school, as both his brother and grandfather played for the Irish. Fitzpatrick cites watching his brother play as one of the main reasons why joining the Irish was such an important goal for him.
“My grandfather went here, which is certainly a long time ago, but my interest and my passion was really sparked when my brother came here and played a big role for [the Irish] for three years,” Fitzpatrick said. “He came in as a walk-on, as well, and they told him that he’d likely never see the field, and he just found a way to contribute in any way he could. He really sparked the passion for me to come do that.”
With the program, Fitzpatrick has repeatedly illustrated his commitment to the team’s success, becoming an integral part of the practice squad and the team’s weekly preparation.
“My only job at the end of the day is just to contribute in any way I can, and through that, make the Notre Dame football program stronger and represent the university,” he said. “It’s just about finding a new way to contribute every single day, week, month and year, so I think being a walk-on is unique because I see a lot of different opportunities to do that.”
Stubbornly modest, Fitzpatrick has stood out on the practice squad, and even played a key role in the Irish win over Michigan last year, emulating former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson for the scout team in the days leading up to the matchup.
“That was probably the most fun week I’ve had,” Fitzpatrick said. “Obviously playing against all of those great players, some of them are still here and some of them have moved on from last year, but that was really unique. It’s also kind of the same, though, just going out there, making plays, and being a football player.”
For his efforts throughout the season, Nick earned recognition as Scout Team Player of the Year for the 2012 season. From week to week, the senior consistently undertook a wide variety of roles.
“That week of playing Denard Robinson was a bit of a coming-out party for me … and I think that the Scout Team Player of the Year was really special for me on an individual level because finally the work had seemed to pay off.”
However, the team-oriented leader made sure to qualify his enthusiasm by revisiting the true high point of his season last year.
“I would trade that award and any other individual award for [the team] going to the national championship,” he said. “Unfortunately, we obviously didn’t get it done, but I think any kind of achievement that you have with the team is always going to exceed the individual achievement. I really wouldn’t trade that entire season and going to the national championship for anything.”
The Marian high school graduate has established himself as a leader on the team and a willing contributor to the program’s success. Fitzpatrick summed up his career best with a short reflection on his time playing for the Irish.
“My focus was always just to contribute, and that turned into me coming out to play receiver. Obviously that role has changed over time, but that was amazing.”
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