1-on-1 With Nick Fitzgerald

Mississippi State redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Fitzgerald talks one-on-one with Gene's Page.

Dak Prescott will be a senior this year. As the quarterback, he is one of the leaders on this team. That is a role that you will have to fill next season. How are you preparing for that role?
"I hang out with him as much as I can off the field. And when he is on the field I am always watching how he carries himself. I see how the other teammates look up to him. If I am feeling a little down I look over at him and see his energy, then I have to raise my energy too. I try to learn as much as I can from him. I also try to get into the playbook as much as possible too because I will be battling it out next year."

In a way you are really lucky. Very few people have come through this program that handles themselves the way that Dak does, especially off the field. He goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to dealing with fans and even the media. Is that something that you are trying to learn from him as well?
"It is definitely something that I watch, how he carries himself. Hopefully, I can get to that point some day. I am actually good at dealing with this kind of thing."

I know you watch Dak as a way to learn how to handle yourself. Does he also offer advice to you about how to be a successful quarterback?
"He tells us to get into the playbook as much as possible because the quicker you learn the playbook the quicker you are able to make plays. The more you know, the easier it will be."

Coming from high school to college, how difficult was it to handle the transition?
"In high school I came from a small school. I was like a big fish in a little pond. I got here and I was definitely not the big fish in the pond any longer. It is how you handle going from being the number 1 man to what you are here. But it wasn't a difficult thing to adjust to."

How do you handle things off the field?
"Off the field, at all times you have to act like someone is videotaping you and going to send it to your mom. If you wouldn't like what you see, then you make sure you aren't doing that kind of thing."

That could be all the time, even walking out of this building or in a store in town. How do you deal with that kind of off the field pressure?
"You have to be on your game all of the time."

Does it take away from the experience of being a college athlete?
"Oh no, I still have a great time. I have plenty of friends and still go out and have a good time. You just have to be smart about what you do and who you are around and who you associate yourself with. One bad move could be a career-ender."

Have you always been that kind of person, simply a good guy?
"In high school in a small town you kind of did what you wanted to. But I was never one to go out and get into trouble. I did have a good time, though."

You are a high profile athlete on a high profile team in a high profile conference. What are the students like when you go to class?
"Some of them know who you are and others could care less. Most of the time I just kind of stick to myself in class. If I have a teammate with me in the class I will stick with them. If some students ask me questions I am always happy to answer them. I talk to them and try to be friendly."

You redshirted last season. This season you know you are going to play. What is the excitement level for you?
"I am pumped. I have not gotten to play in a real football game since November, 2013. I really miss it. And I'm really excited to get back on the field and play with my teammates."

How do you feel that you have improved since you have been here at State?
"Exponentially. I came from a really easy high school offense where I didn't have many reads or checks. Now I play in a really intense offense that has a lot of reads, a lot of checks, and you have to know a ton. Getting to where you can understand the offense and how fast the offense is was a big change for me. I also didn't throw the ball that much in high school so I have had to get a lot of reps in practice.. I have had to work on my arm angles."

Was there anytime where it was almost overwhelming to you?
"I think that might have happened when I first got here. Maybe it sounded like Chinese at first but that is long over with now. You just have to learn to take things slow."

What is your height and weight now compared to what it was when you first got to MSU?
"I am 6-foot-5, 230 now. I think I was 212, 213 when I first got here."

Do you still have the same quickness that you had in high school?
"Yes sir, I do. In fact, I might even be faster."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@maxxsouth.net.

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