Plainsboro South (Princeton Junction, NJ) LB/TE J.B. Fitzgerald has seen his offer list grow at an increasingly rapid pace in recent weeks. With so many suitors now courting him, his goal is to give all of them a thorough look by visiting as many of their campuses as possible. His most recent recruiting trek took him to four destinations…one of which was a second trip to the University of Michigan.
"I got to see the campus and I got to attend practice as well," Fitzgerald said recalling his visit to Ann Arbor last week. "That was my second visit out there, but it was first time seeing practice. I definitely liked seeing that. It was really cool to watch a program of such high prestige and see how they run things and how they practice."
With the loss of David Harris and Prescott Burgess to graduation last year, and Shawn Crable and Chris Graham at the conclusion of this season, the Wolverines are definitely searching for linebacker prospects with the potential to come in and contribute early. It appears that they believe Fitzgerald fits that bill.
"We sat down with Coach Carr and he was talking to me about how they were losing a good one in David Harris this year and how they didn’t really have anybody like him," Fitzgerald said. "They were looking at me to kinda’ fill his spot in the coming years. I guess that he is a middle linebacker, so they could possibly want me there, but everything is still up in the air. They definitely said that I would start seeing some playing time early. They didn’t say whether I would redshirt or not. I'd be open to it if they wanted me to. I'd always imagined I would probably redshirt wherever I went just to get a feel for the school academically and to improve on my speed and strength. But they really made it seem like I would be able to play pretty early there."
Fitzgerald began learning more about Michigan when he received his offer from Carr over two months ago. He already had an appreciation for the prestige of the football program, but his two visits to the Great Lake State have shown him that the academic reputation is every bit as strong.
"Academics have always been a pretty important thing in my family," said Fitzgerald. "Both of my parents went to college. Both of my parents graduated from college. My dad is a military man. He’s a colonel in the military and my mom is a second grade teacher. Academics are always very high in my family and very important. Football is a privilege after you get good grades in my family. While I was at Michigan I got a chance to see how seriously they take academics. I got to meet with an academic advisor named Shari (Acho). You can tell that she really cares about the students a lot and keeps the student athletes in line as far grades go… and in mapping out their classes. That was definitely comforting to see."
The talented youngster wasn't the only Fitzgerald that found the overall presentation impressive.
"[My dad] liked it a lot a too," he said. "He liked it when we went up the first time as well. He really thinks that it’s a class act up there and it’s a great program."
Father and son recently visited three other campuses as well, and each of them had positives that were very appealing.
"I liked Georgia Tech a lot," Fitzgerald said. "It was nice to get down there and check out Atlanta. I liked how the campus was very typical… campus-like. You wouldn’t know that it was in the middle of Atlanta, so that’s pretty cool."
"Wake Forest was really nice too. I got to meet with Jim Grobe for a little bit, and that was pretty cool. They definitely have a beautiful campus down there. It’s nice, it’s small, and they have pretty good academics down there as well."
"Duke’s academics are absolutely through the roof. I definitely got the feeling like they were trying to turn things around down there as far as their football program, so that was nice to see. Their campus was pretty similar to Princeton’s campus, which is right down the road from me. That was pretty cool."
As great as those experiences were, Fitzgerald still found himself singling one out as the school making the strongest impression.
"Really, just the whole aura of Michigan just stands out at you" he said. "It’s such a big time school. Not only does it have such a great football program, they also have excellent academics as well. It is definitely high on my list."
How high, you ask?
"I'd probably say Michigan is my favorite right now," Fitzgerald admitted. "I feel like they have an excellent balance of academics and athletics. It really feels like a tight knit group there… a family-like feel. That is something that I’m looking for."
While the Wolverines have clearly moved ahead of the pack in Fitzgerald's recruitment, he still isn't quite ready to make a decision. Other programs will have the chance to knock the Maize & Blue off of its perch.
"I’m gonna try and take a couple of more unofficial visits to a few of places, then after that I’m just going to sit back and see how it goes," he said. "I’ll see how the rest of the spring plays out. I originally imagined my decision coming after a few official visits, but that could change over the course of the spring."
"I haven’t set up to go to any (camp or combine) visits yet," Fitzgerald continued. "I may attend Michigan’s camp this summer. I'll have to see how my schedule works. I am definitely going to look into it."