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SEC MEDIA DAYS 2017: Fitzpatrick taking leadership role seriously

Alabama Minkah Fitzpatrick said he shouldered the blame with all of the leaders following last year’s loss to Clemson in the championship game. (Staff Photo)

By Graham Dunn
RRS Editor
(July 12, 2017)

HOOVER – Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t get much of a mention from his head coach during Wednesday’ SEC Media Days session.

In fact, there was only a small reference by Nick Saban about all three of Alabama’s representatives in the media room.

In the case of Fitzpatrick, it could be considered the norm since he is probably the most dependable player on a team that has a plethora of talent and reliability.

“You go out and try to do your job every day and not worry about any of the stuff going on outside of what you can do,” Fitzpatrick said.  “We have trust in the coaching staff to come up with a plan to win and we work that plan.”

It sounds nonchalant but that’s to be expected from the junior who already is considered the top defensive back in the SEC. Fitzpatrick continues to impress the masses with his sometimes acrobatic play, turning interceptions into touchdowns.

But more impressive is what he does that doesn’t make headlines.

Along with his two “pick six” interceptions a year ago, Fitzpatrick led Alabama in interceptions with six, finished second on the team with pass breakups and fourth in tackles with 66. Of those 41 were solos.

He returns as one of the undesignated leaders on a defense that, for once, will have major rebuilding to do this season.

When asked about a comment Saban made after last year’s loss to Clemson in the championship regarding “lack of leadership,” Fitzpatrick took responsibility.

“The lack of leadership falls back on me,” he said. “There were plays that we didn’t do enough and in a game like that, it can be the difference in winning and losing. I take responsibility for that. It’s something that we’ve talked about since the loss.”

When he left New Jersey three years ago, the talk of Fitzpatrick centered on two subjects – his speed and the difficult struggles his family endured after Hurricane Irene in 2011.

In their own way, both have created the monster that he is on the field.

His family had financial problems after the storm ravaged his home and only recently has the situation improved, although they are still regrouping.

Fitzpatrick’s work ethic was already developed but he matured quickly, having to fight for everything he had.

As for his speed, Fitzpatrick was clocked at 4.39 during an NFL workout last spring. While no one was caught off guard, it certainly made an impression on draft experts who quickly vaulted him to the top spot among defensive backs.

How high Fitzpatrick goes in the draft remains to be seen but he will play a big role in helping Alabama reshape what should be another championship defense. With the loss to Clemson last January still fresh on their minds, the motivation is there.

“You always learn from a loss, and if you don’t, then that’s on you," he said. "
We’re definitely using the motivation, and we’re not letting small things slide. That’s the reason we lost last year because we let little things slide towards the end of the season and the championship game. We lost because of the small details.”


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