NU Becoming a Destination Program

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald boldly proclaimed that his alma mater should be a destination program for local recruits. Recent recruiting success for Fitzgerald and the Wildcats prove that blue-chippers want to don NU purple.

Pat Fitzgerald is known for his honest, straightforward recruiting pitch. Northwestern's seventh-year head coach uses that approach to sell his alma mater to the nation's top recruits.

There's no sugarcoating it for Fitzgerald, he wholeheartedly believes every blue-chipper should give a close look at Northwestern.

"This should be a destination for (local recruits)," Fitzgerald said after a recent practice.

Sure, a bold statement, but who is better to utter it?

Fitzgerald was a two-time All-American linebacker with the Wildcats, helping the program to unprecedented triumph. His success serves as a model for all Wildcat recruits. It's Fitzgerald's job, as head coach, to sell Northwestern, and he does so with his genuine beliefs.

"This is a school that's going to change your life," said Fitzgerald. "And you get to play Big Ten football."

When Fitzgerald meets with a recruit, there is no lying and "no kissing their hind parts," as he phrased it. He isn't scared of losing out on a highly-rated prospect as a result.

The approach matches Fitzgerald's personality, both as a coach and a person. He is honest and passionate about Northwestern; there's no nonsense. As it turns out, his recruiting pitch is working; NU is landing some of the nation's top prospects.

Northwestern solidified its future at quarterback with the addition of four-star Matthew Alviti, touted as one of the nation's best signal callers. Alviti, who was offered a scholarship by Fitzgerald in December of 2010, picked Northwestern over offers from rival Illinois, plus the likes of Michigan State, Nebraska and Notre Dame.

The verbal commitment of Alviti marks Northwestern's third addition from the Scout 300 in the past year, and just the sixth NU has ever landed since the birth of Scout.com.

NU made its biggest recruiting splash ever with its 2012 class, which included four-star linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo, rated the nation's No. 5 outside linebacker, plus four-star guard Adam DePietro. The Wildcats beat perennial recruiting juggernauts like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC in signing their 21 members of the 2012 class.


Four-star linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo highlighted NU's 2012 recruiting class

Further proof came when former high-school All-American receiver Kyle Prater opted to transfer to Northwestern, choosing the Wildcats over numerous other schools. Prater cited personal reasons for his move to Evanston, a short drive from his home of Hillside, Ill.

As a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school, Prater chose USC over a long list of offers, which included Northwestern -- a school that didn't get much consideration before he signed with the Trojans.

When Prater decided he was looking to transfer closer to home, Fitzgerald's recruiting pitch from 2010 resonated in his mind. Northwestern was his destination.

"The program, overall, is a great program," Prater said of Northwestern in a February interview with PurpleWildcats.com. "I see it's on the rise. We've got a great recruiting class coming in this year. Hopefully with myself on the team, we can make something happen."

Northwestern continues its push for the nation's best prospects. The Wildcats are in the running for ten recruits in the Scout 300. If the trend continues, more blue-chippers will don purple.

Fitzgerald's claim is becoming valid; Northwestern can be -- and is becoming -- a destination program.

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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