Before he started his collegiate career at the University of Alabama, Crimson Tide fans prayed for a New Jersey native to come and transform its secondary.
The prayer was answered in the form of Minkah Fitzpatrick as the five-star instantly became a fan favorite in 2015, and is now looking like an answered revelation in the National Football League for the Miami Dolphins.
Since being selected as the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s draft, Fitzpatrick has been a playmaker and leader for the organization. Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase raves about the rookie from Nick Saban’s tutelage, and in the team’s season-opening matchup versus Tennessee over the weekend, the former All-American safety made Miami’s front office look golden.
He recorded six total tackles in a 27-20 victory for the Dolphins – including a huge stop on fourth down inside the red zone. Fitzpatrick’s output in tackles placed him third on the team, and he would also total three solo stops with a pass breakup against the Titans at home.
Minkah Fitzpatrick fought through the pick and made a huge stop on 4th down. pic.twitter.com/gZ7tfHu9or
— Eric Elizondo (@EricElizondo8) September 10, 2018
Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, also known as Chad Ochocinco, immediately noticed the rookie’s potential and saluted him on social media.
@minkfitz_21 Young boul you looked fucking great yesterday, I’m no scout but i know my shit, you special ?
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) September 10, 2018
The 6-foot, 204-pound defender helped Miami limit Tennessee to 220 passing yards combined from quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert, while rendering the duo to a 52.6 percent completing rating and forced three interceptions. He even blocked for his teammate, Reshad Jones, after he recorded his second interception of the game — helping him set the Dolphins in good position on offense.
Despite not starting the game, Fitzpatrick’s performance goes a long in way into him soon being recognized as a starter. He carries exceptional range to pair with sound tackling, coverage and pass-rushing skills.
During his time at Alabama, Fitzpatrick shared in Saban’s love for details, consistency and instincts on the field.
He was a Freshman All-American in 2015; however, he truly blossomed in both his sophomore and junior seasons as he took more of a role safety. He collected 171 total tackles in his career and added nine interceptions with 26 pass breakups.
Fitzpatrick set a school record of four pick-sixes and was twice named consensus All-American and first team All-SEC in 2016 and 2017. He earned both Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe awards in 2017, following a season in which he helped the Tide win a national championship.