Purple Reign caught up with Coach Fitzgerald a few days ago to talk specifically about this story and this story. But Fitz was generous enough to take a few minutes to chat outside the bounds of PR's questions.
Here are some extras from our interview with Coach…
This was in response to a question about Patrick Ward. Ward, of course, is a much sought-after offensive tackle from New Lenox, Ill., who will be playing for NU this season. He is probably NU's most ballyhooed recruit of 2009. Evidence: He was offered scholarships by Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wisconsin – all told, he had well over 20 offers.
Anyway, Purple Reign asked Fitzgerald if, following a 9-4 season, he felt more comfortable going toe-to-toe with schools like Nebraska and Notre Dame for recruits:
We don't really worry about other schools and what they're doing. I remember when I was being recruited in 1993 – and there were a lot of recruiters – I didn't want to hear about other schools. So we really put our focus on who we are, and what we're about. If Northwestern was talking about those other schools, that would have really turned me off….
Kids see through the recruiting smoke, see through the fog. And if they know what's important to them, then all that stuff about other teams shouldn't matter.
. . .Here is a little more inspired by Ward. Fitzgerald is talking about how impressed he and his staff were with Ward not based simply on his stats – 6-8, 290 – but also his demeanor. (Kid also has a 4.8+ GPA and got a 35 o the ACT.)
Did you speak with Patrick? (Yes.) Were you impressed with him? (Yes.) He's an impressive young man. Patrick Ward was a perfect fit for us from the moment we started our evaluation. He was a perfect fit for out program….
In my humble opinion, if you don't want what we have, you're not going to be a good fit for us.
. . .Here, Fitz is responding to a question about NU's 2009 recruiting class being a bit more highly-regarded than in years past. Scout.com's star-based evaluation system – which gives a player between one and five stars – came up, at which point Coach said he is more worried about the players than the prognosticators.
We've been recruiting at a very high level for a number of years. I don't put a lot of stock in what you guys say. You don't know the culture of our team, the culture of our program. And when you visit a young person, I don't get caught up in who Nebraska or Notre Dame was recruiting. That's not relevant to me. When we watch (the players), talk with their parents and guidance counselors – if they fit us, in our evaluation, then we like them.
That's how we look it. Maybe it's a little pie in the sky, but if I were to look at what everybody says – I'm just saying that there is so much out there, there's a need to step back and look at each player individually.
. . .
Coach again takes a moment to discuss what he's looking for in a recruit: Not just on-the-field accolades.
I want a young man who's driven in all aspects in their life. And if they don't believe that they're coming here to win a Big Ten and national championship, then this isn't the best place for them. There are other schools out here that compare at a close academic level to us. If they don't have that want and that drive, and that same drive and want academically, that young man won't be a good fit for us. I'm not looking for a young man that's perfect, but who wants to work hard and get better.
That's the culture we want to have. I'm very proud to say that I believe we have that.
That's all for now. Just wanted to give you a glimpse at some of the items that weren't in the stories.