- Defensive end
- 6-3, 245 pounds
- Hermitage High School (Richmond, VA)
- TheSabre Top 30: 8
- Rivals rank: 3-star; #20 strong-side defensive end
- Scout rank: 3-star; #41 defensive end
- Primary Recruiter: Mike Groh
A suggestion for Virginia’s future football opponents: Don’t make Jeffrey Fitzgerald mad. When the 6-3, 245-pound defensive end gets riled up, he just becomes that much harder to handle.
“Jeffrey’s the kind of kid we want to get angry before the game,” said Pat Kane, Fitzgerald’s coach at Richmond’s Hermitage High School, a recent UVa pipeline. “He’s the kind of player that if he gets fired up, if somebody crosses him they’re in trouble [on the football field]. We always hope somebody says the wrong thing to him on the field because then it’s on.”
For Fitzgerald, who describes himself as “a typical tough guy” on the field but “a laidback guy” off it, getting fired up to play football hasn’t been a problem. Staying healthy has been. So anger isn’t the trait he’s needed to exhibit. Patience is.
Fitzgerald missed most of his sophomore year and his entire senior season due to ACL damage in each knee. Still, he was a highly-coveted recruit. Fitzgerald compiled offers from some of the elite in college football, including Boston College, Florida, Nebraska, Penn State, Syracuse, Maryland and Virginia Tech.
Also, despite the injuries, Fitzgerald earned accolades at both defensive end and tight end. He was rated the nation’s #20 strong-side defensive end by Rivals.com, the #28 defensive end by CollegeFootballNews.com and the #43 defensive end by Scout.com. He was also pegged as the country’s #36 tight end by CollegeFootballNews.com. TheSabre.com ranked Fitzgerald as the 8th-best player in Virginia, Rivals.com and Scout.com had him at #9 and Superprep #10. The Roanoke Times and the Charlottesville Daily Progress “Gold List” also listed him at #9 in the state.
The Cavalier coaching staff got a good look at Fitzgerald the past two summers when he attended UVa’s football camp. He is a great example of how important summer camp sessions are as a part of the recruiting evaluation process.
“In our evaluation of him, based on his junior year and the time that he spent with us in our football camp, he was a real athletic defense lineman that really was too much of a combination of size and speed for high school offensive lineman to slow him down,” said Virginia coach Al Groh. “We really see Jeffrey as a 3-4 defensive end, particularly as a defensive end that can use that athletic ability to develop some real pass-rushing skills. He was a very, very productive tight end. He made some excellent catches and was very difficult to bring down.”
Hermitage’s players have been regulars at UVa’s camp in recent years and several have signed with the Cavs. It started two years ago with Fontel Mines and this year the Wahoos secured the services of Fitzgerald and dynamic quarterback Jameel Sewell .
Groh likes what he sees in the kids from Hermitage. “I think they are averaging 10 wins a year for the last two or three years,” he said, “and so those kids know how to win.”
They proved they could win without Fitzgerald, who watched Hermitage go undefeated in the regular season in 2002 and 2004, the years he was injured. Not being an active part of that success was difficult.
“Most kids can’t handle disappointment once, he had to handle disappointment twice and both years we ended up 10-0,” Kane said. “He had to sit and watch that. The year he played we went 9-1 and we weren’t able to make the playoffs, so he never even got the chance to experience a playoff game.”
“It was hard but I got through it,” Fitzgerald said. “I missed being out there.”
Missing his senior season may have been the most heartbreaking since his injury occurred in the team’s next-to-last preseason scrimmage.
“The quarterback had dropped back and I was chasing,” Fitzgerald recalled. “I planted...
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