Fitzgerald Sees NU As Local 'Destination'

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is excited to welcome former five-star receiver Kyle Prater to the program. The USC transfer officially joined the program on Monday. Fitzgerald hopes Chicago-area blue-chippers will see Northwestern as a destination program.

Northwestern has made Chicago its top priority for recruiting. Pat Fitzgerald, an Orland Park, Ill. native, strongly believes that all prospects from the Windy City should look to stay local for college football.

"I don't know why any (recruit) would ever leave Chicago," Fitzgerald said after Monday's practice. "If you've got the character and you have got the academic credentials to (attend Northwestern), this is a school that's going to change your life. And you get the chance to play Big Ten football."

However, zero of the top-ten Chicago-area prospects in the class of 2012 signed with Northwestern. Though, the Wildcats will welcome four local freshmen to the program. Malin Jones, a three-star running back from Joliet Catholic Academy, was the second-ranked running back in Illinois.

Fitzgerald takes pride in an honest, no-nonsense recruiting pitch. He carries that from his college coach, Gary Barnett, and Randy Walker, whom he served as an assistant under for five seasons. Fitzgerald isn't worried about frightening recruits with his honesty.

"Young people today, especially young men, need to hear what they need to hear, not what they want," said Fitzgerald. "We might lose a recruit because of that. I'm not going to kiss their hind parts, I'm not going to promise them things, I'm going to tell them the truth. We wants guys that understand the truth and want to be developed."

That approach stuck with Kyle Prater, a former five-star wide receiver, who transferred to Northwestern in January. When Prater first decided he would leave the Trojans, he immediately reached out to Fitzgerald with consideration of the strong relationship the two built years prior.

Coming out of high school, Prater had interest in Northwestern, but admitted to PurpleWildcats.com that he "didn't see what was best available" at the time. On Monday, Prater suited up for his first practice with the Wildcats.

"We're just excited, a young man like Kyle (Prater), we're excited to have him join our program," Fitzgerald said. "We would have loved to have him out of high school, it just didn't work at that time."

If Prater's NCAA waiver request is approved, he will likely make an immediate impact this season. Fitzgerald is thrilled to have the All-American return to Chicago, and hopes to see more local blue-chip prospects follow Prater's lead.

"I'd like every Chicagoan to take a look (at Northwestern) and say 'why not here,'" said Fitzgerald. "This should be a destination for them. If they don't, I'm kind of wondering and curious what their thought process is and what their priorities are."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college football, college basketball and college baseball for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2009. He served as a writer for Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics, and is now the Publisher of PurpleWildcats.com, covering the Northwestern Wildcats.
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