Georgia football: The red-and-black coincidence for commit John FitzPatrick
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll check in with UGA commit John FitzPatrick in this edition to let fans get to know him a little bit better before he heads to Athens.
John FitzPatrick committed to play for Georgia last month. The Marist School (Atlanta) senior stands 6-foot-7 and then some. He lines up at tight end and defensive end.
Paul Etheridge serves as the offensive coordinator for the Marist War Eagles. He played tight end in the SEC, too. Etheridge was a four-year letterman at that position.
Etheridge used that connection to get in a good line.
“There’s another tight end that went here back in 1988 and went on to Georgia and played,” Etheridge said. “That was me. A lanky kid with big ol’ feet and big ol’ hands who was just trying to figure out all of that like a deer or a young colt.”
And he also had another good line about that common link.
“He told me that ‘Coach [Kirby] Smart is going to take away my letter jacket’ if I don’t commit to Georgia and said he wanted me to stay close to here,” FitzPatrick joked.
He was kidding. But that should best be viewed as a piece of data that supported what he had seen for himself in Athens.
“That really had no bearing on whether I was going or not,” FitzPatrick said. “I had to make that decision myself.”
John FitzPatrick already feels at home
FitzPatrick committed to Georgia on July 13. When he went to Athens for a recent visit, he quickly bonded with North Gwinnett’s Warren Ericson and big Oklahoma tackle Owen Condon. There is already talk that those three will be roommates in Athens.
UCLA finished second in his recruitment. His older sister is still at school there.
“I visited [UGA] a few times and really fell in love with it,” FitzPatrick said. “I loved the coaches and they were always really nice to me and I just felt really comfortable there. But then at the same time, they have a great academic reputation in the business field there. I’m excited about all the parts that match up for Georgia well for me.”
What was the biggest single reason he chose UGA?
“I really liked the idea of being an hour away from my house,” FitzPatrick said. “I can go to and from my house and eat dinner with my parents on a Sunday and get back for early morning workouts on a Monday.”
This is a strong commitment. He cannot enroll early from Marist but should join the program in late May or early June of 2018.
He also sat on his pledge to UGA for about a week.
“I knew for about a week prior to my public commitment,” FitzPatrick said. “I decided to pick a school and kind of sit with it for a week and make sure it was 100 percent my school. So I sat on it for a week and went there for another visit. I told the coaches I was committed, and they were ecstatic about it.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was glad to hear that. He even hopped out of his seat to give his future red zone weapon a big hug. The other coaches were clapping and cheering when he let them all know.
Getting to know John FitzPatrick
When asked to describe what he sees out of FitzPatrick every day, Etheridge has a unique description.
It sounds more like a professional reference than charting his ability to shield safeties from the ball and sit in the perfect nooks and cracks in a zone defense.
“He is a super compassionate and competitive smart kid,” Etheridge said. “He’s very mature beyond his years. He’s a 24-year-old in a 17-year-old body. Very dedicated. He’s the youngest child in a family who are all great achievers. Those kids have all gone on to be successful in college and after college in athletics or not. He’s special. He’s really special.”
What kind of life does he see for the 3-star tight end when he reaches 40?
“I think he’s a CEO somewhere,” Etheridge said. “He’s already retired from the NFL. He’s got plenty of money in the bank because he didn’t go buy a fleet of cars. I could see him starting his own software firm.”
FitzPatrick has played multiple sports at Marist. He’s been the rebounder and big man down low on the basketball team. But the agility and footwork he flashes on pass routes have been honed by years and years of competitive soccer.
He was a 6-foot-7 center-midfielder for the War Eagles last spring.
“He really started to grow into his body last year,” Etheridge said. “You could really see his confidence start to pick up. As soon as he stopped thinking and started playing, he was dominating last year. I called the plays for us, and I didn’t use him the way I should have for us last year. We will do that this year.
“This year we really have to find a way to get him the ball because people are really going to struggle to find a way to cover him.”
The eye-opening scouting on John FitzPatrick
What kind of player will he be? Georgia tight ends coach Shane Beamer probably didn’t need to see a lot of extra 7-on-7 film to offer FitzPatrick
“He’s got great body control for a guy that size,” Etheridge said. “He’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen. He can go up and get a ball one-handed but also knows how to control his body in the air. He can adjust to that high deep ball, but he also goes way down to get that low pass. That is something which can be difficult for those big tall guys. He’s good in space, but he’s also good in traffic. Those are all the key ingredients you need there for a tight end.”
Let’s rewind that quote back to that “as good as he’s ever seen” part. That’s interesting.
Etheridge played at Georgia from 1989 to 1992. He was signed by Vince Dooley and played four seasons for Ray Goff.
He served as a graduate assistant for Goff for three seasons and then one additional season in that capacity for Jim Donnan.
That means Etheridge saw a lot of Bulldogs who could flash those hands.
“He’s got as good a pair of hands as anybody I have ever seen,” Etheridge said. “I mean I would put him up there with Hines [Ward] with that, but let’s get this right here. I’m not talking about him being better than an NFL All-Pro and a Hall of Famer. I am just talking about hands. Just hands.”
If FitzPatrick were a firefighter and a landing circle wasn’t available, he’d be the one to catch those children who had to jump from the second floor.
“He’d 100 percent catch those kids,” Etheridge said. “John could probably catch them with one hand. I’d want him to use two, but he’d probably be able to catch them with one. He’s got the athletic prowess and ability from a guy that you see at 6-foot-1 on the roster that’s playing receiver. But he’s almost going to be 6-foot-8 on that roster.”
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