What visits have you been on with J.B.?
Mrs. Fitzgerald: "I've gone to Michigan, I've gone to Florida, and I've gone to Rutgers. Those are his top three and those have been the only ones that I've been able to go on because I teach school. My husband has gone on the rest of them with him."
Are there certain criteria that the schools had to meet in your eyes before he began whittling his list?
Mrs. Fitzgerald: "I have to tell you, this has really been a whole new process for us. It just kind of came upon us…all of these offers from all of these tremendous schools. The ball wasn't in our court initially. Offers were coming in and it was like, 'wow, you got an offer from Iowa' or 'wow you got an offer from Michigan.' We were just literally taking it all in. Now it's kind of like you've got all of these offers, we really need to narrow it down to make it more manageable. That means asking him what are you thinking and where do you see yourself being. That of course has to do with taking the trips to these schools because we don't know anything about them really. We knew more about them from an academic standpoint, my husband especially because he did a lot of recruiting on a lot of college campuses. It was really a matter of getting out there and seeing these places. They're all great schools. Some are better than others in terms of ranking, but they're all of great schools."
Were there things in particular that impressed about the visits…and conversely, were there things that you were hoping to see or hear that you didn't?
Mrs. Fitzgerald: "When I went, I was looking definitely at the academics and at the academic support. Am I going to be assured that my son is going to maintain solid grades at an institution where his full time job is also football? We met with academic counselors at Michigan. We met with an academic counselor at Rutgers. We also met the Dean at Rutgers. At Florida we also met with the academic counselors there. They were all the same and they were all different. They all seemed to relay that they are pretty much on top of the students, especially the incoming freshmen and making sure they don't fall through the cracks. I think that at a couple of the schools I had to do more of the inquiry. At one specific school, it was pretty much all laid out. I had to ask fewer questions. So there were some variances in the presentations. I think they all provide academic support, and I think wherever he goes he will be successful…and I would certainly be ensuring that as well."
"Then of course we were looking at the athletic facilities and what they have to offer in terms of the football program itself. We were looking at the coaches… and I say we, but it's really about J.B. My main concern is the academics, but it has to be a solid academic program, the athletic program has to be strong, and he has to like the coaches and players and well. He has to feel like it ALL fits for him. The bottom line is it's really about what he feels and the connection that he is making with these folks. We're there to support him and give him our opinion on what we feel about the folks that we're meeting and the program…and look at things with a different eye. But again, it's really about J.B. and the feeling he gets."
Is distance from home a factor that you as a parent look at?
Mrs. Fitzgerald: "No. I look at it like I did with my two daughters that went on to college. The field was wide open to where ever they wanted to be. One of my daughters looked at going to California schools and applied to California schools. Distance never really played a part in their decision and it certainly wouldn't play a part in J.B.'s decision. We're not dictating at all where he ends up. It's totally in his hands. I'm not saying to him, "it would be really nice for you to stay in school in New Jersey and go to Rutgers because then we could see all of your games." I'm really not pushing that on him. If he chooses Rutgers, yeah that would be a positive thing in terms of us being to go to the games. But you know what… my husband is going to be at every game anyway, no matter what school he goes to. Where ever he ends up, we're going to be there for him."
What will be the thing that separates one school from the rest of the pack?
Mrs. Fitzgerald: "For him I really think it's going to come down to the connection he makes with the coaches, and specifically the linebacker coach. Another thing will be the kids that they're recruiting… the other 2008 kids that are committing to these schools. Then, once again, the connection he feels with coaches and the players and how welcome they make him feel."