In every signing class and team, there is one player that makes an entire roster strive to perform at its best.
Guys like Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Mark Ingram, Rolando McClain, C.J. Mosley, Reuben Foster and Mark Barron among others carried either a playing style or personality that commanded respect upon them entering the locker room at Alabama.
For the Crimson Tide’s 2015 recruiting class, Minkah Fitzpatrick is the anchor.
Hailing from Old Bridge, N.J., the former five-star has displayed leadership and strong football skills since his freshman year. After proving his worth in mastering Nick Saban’s nickel defense at star, Fitzpatrick advanced to playing safety, dime linebacker (dime) and even seeing action on special teams.
Despite his interception numbers not equaling the output from last season, his influence in directing others and attention to details in certain situations is second to none.
With Fitzpatrick, the Tide ranks in the top-10 nationally in total defense (258 ypg, second), scoring defense (11.5 ppg, first), passing yards allowed (164 ypg, seventh), team pass efficiency defense (98.90 rating, second) and first downs allowed (179, tied for sixth) through 12 games.
During the program’s annual awards banquet at the Birmingham Shearton on Sunday, Alabama’s coaching staff honored Fitzpatrick with the Outstanding Defensive Performer and Most Valuable Player awards.
As for his individual statistics, Fitzpatrick accounts for 52 total tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one interception.
Regardless of him not winning the Bronko Nagurski Award, which goes to college football’s top defensive player, Fitzpatrick was voted on by his teammates to be a permanent team captain.
He along with Bradley Bozeman, Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton will have their hand and foot prints enshrined on Denny Chimes next spring – symbolizing the dedication and commitment all four had to excellence on and off the field.
Nothing would make Fitzpatrick happier than getting a second national championship ring, but as a family man and one in whom Saban raves about constantly, securing the status in being a fan favorite in Tuscaloosa gives the player who once saw his home destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011 a second place to call home.
He grades out a first-round selection on a multitude of NFL Draft boards; nevertheless, Fitzpatrick is focused on getting ready for Clemson in the playoff.