During the 2013 season, elite junior athlete Minkah Fitzpatrick fueled St. Peter's Prep to a New Jersey state title game appearance. Fitzpatrick, who excels at a variety of positions including cornerback, safety, running back and wide receiver, was instrumental in propelling the Marauders to a 10-2 record this season despite an early snag.
"It was a good year even though I missed a little bit of time due to a concussion," said Fitzpatrick. "I played great, but I wish things would have finished up a little bit differently losing the state title game."
The aforementioned NJ championship game featured a bevy of highly-touted players and a couple that should be familiar to Michigan fans. St. Peter's Prep faced Paramus Catholic in a losing effort, and Fitzpatrick took the field against Wolverine commits Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Both Peppers and Bushell-Beatty were selected to the Under Armour All-American game, and Fitzpatrick is a lock to participate in an All-American game next year as a senior.
Minkah has already drawn comparisons to the elder Peppers for his on-field talents. As another New Jerse blue-chip prospect, Fitzpatrick has the agility, versatility, athleticism and play making ability that put Peppers in the spotlight thus far. Even though Fitzpatrick faced Peppers in a losing effort, he was still able to draw some positives from his performance against the nation's No. 2 prospect.
"I had a great game offensively and defensively," said Fitzpatrick. "I got the defensive MVP from the newspaper that covered the game. It was a lot of fun competing in a game against a bunch of great players and athletes."
A quick look at Fitzpatrick's junior tape and it is clear to see why he is pulling in accolades left and right. Whether it is on offense or defense, Fitzpatrick is never far from the football. Minkah projects as a five-star recruit before the evaluation process is over- and for good reason.
"Offensively, I make the best of what I get," said Fitzpatrick. "I might get the ball in my hands ten times a game, but I'm going to try to do whatever I can those ten times. Even if I don't score, I'll try to get 30, 40 yards. I just try to make as many plays as I can. Defensively, I was very physical this whole season. I was told that was what I needed to work on, to be more physical with the receivers and tackling, being more aggressive at the point of attack. So I went out there and made my presence felt on the field."
This immense display of skill is what causes college coaches on both sides of the ball to salivate over Fitzpatrick's potential at the next level. Minkah has received offers on both sides of the ball, and is willing to play any position, but would prefer to play cornerback. With nearly every top offer in the country to his name, Fitzpatrick has plenty of opportunities to play corner in college, and he spoke about which offers catch his eye at the moment.
"Right now, they all stand out," said Fitzpatrick. I'm just talking to everybody that has offered. Wherever is the best fit for me. If it was out in California, then it would be out in California. The relationship between coaches and players is something that is really important to me. I had a good relationship with my coach in high school. The competitiveness and the toughness is important to me too because I want to play against the best. You only get better by playing against the best competitors. The education is really important to me also. There is always a life after football, so you never know what might happen."
With academics playing a pivotal role in his decision making process, earning a degree that carries some weight is important to Fitzpatrick. He is not sure what he wants to major in at the moment, but Kineosology and Biomedical Engineering are potential fields that he would be interesting in pursuing. Michigan linebacker Roy Manning has touched on the importance of a quality education.
"I had been talking to coach Manning for a while from Michigan," said Fitzpatrick. "Doing that, I've had the chance to form a relationship with him out of all the coaches. He messaged me on Twitter on Wednesday and then I talked to him that night. Then the next morning he told me that he had talked to my coach and that I should go talk to him. I never had the chance to really respond to him, so I called my coach and he told me they had offered me a scholarship."
When talking about his reaction to his Michigan offer, Fitzpatrick took a moment to stifle a strong laugh before mentioning that he was "pretty excited", though he sounded as if he could have said much more. Minkah then touched on his relationship with Peppers and how that could effect his recruiting process.
"We have a little bit of a relationship," said Fitzpatrick. "We talk here and there and we've been talking about getting together and training together sometime this offseason. Then we could learn from each other and all that. He tells me a little bit about Michigan, then after that offer he tweeted at me saying "What more can I say?"
In terms of legitimate interest, the general protocol is to assume that a recruit is not all that high on a school unless a visit materializes. To test the water here, I asked Minkah if he would be looking to visit Michigan now that he holds an offer from the Wolverines.
"Definitely, definitely," said Fitzpatrick. "It's something I really want to do. If I cant get here this winter, then I definitely want to get there in the spring for practice. I need to get out there."
Fitzpatrick has maintained a strong interest in Michigan even without an offer up until this point. I spoke to Minkah in late-December and the general consensus was that the Wolverines could become major players in his recruitment if they were to come through with an offer soon. Fitzpatrick received his offer sooner rather than later, and it looks like Michigan will be in the mix if his visit comes to fruition.