At just 21 years old, you’d expect former Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to have a sparkling career ahead of him. Having lined up a $16.4 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in the latest NFL draft, Fitzpatrick is certainly moving up in life. But it hasn’t always been so glamorous for the New Jersey native.
Back in 2011, Fitzpatrick’s family were caught up in the path of Hurricane Irene, which devastated the Greater New York area. To make matters worse, the family was without any insurance coverage. Once Irene had destroyed their property, they were left financially ruined.
Knowing his son’s potential, and desperate to keep him in the expensive private school he attended, Fitzpatrick’s father Minkah Sr. held down three jobs while the family pieced their lives back together. It was a remarkable sacrifice at a time when the family was under increasing pressure. But with the vital and unrelenting support of his family, Fitzpatrick remained utterly determined to make it to the top.
“I kind of had to grow quick just because of some things I’ve been through at a young age and it kind of helped me realize what I was chasing after,” Fitzpatrick said late Thursday after being drafted to the Dolphins, according to the Miami Herald. “I had a goal in mind and I wasn’t going to fall short of that goal. That was my mind-set going in, and it is the same thing in the NFL. My dream wasn’t to just make it to the NFL, it’s to be a great player in the NFL. It’s just the beginning. Like I said, I’m going to take that same mindset I had at Alabama and apply it to the Miami Dolphins organization.”
#Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick will soon be a first-year player again in the NFL. But he's good at making first impressions wherever he goes:
— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) April 25, 2018
After overcoming so much, Fitzpatrick has finally attained his boyhood dream — a multi-million dollar contract in the NFL.
“He came off at 18 right as a freshman and was an impact player for them,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier explained. “He’s been a very good football player for three years. [He has] impeccable character. There was a story … You guys have all seen his story.”
On what was likely the biggest night of his life, Fitzpatrick was reminded of his humble past and just how far he has come. As he prepared for his big moment, he spotted an old friend on the red carpet at the draft event — none other than Alec Mezza, the All-American’s childhood friend from New Jersey.
“He started getting emotional,” Fitzpatrick said, as reported by AL.com. “I was like, ‘We’re at the NFL Draft and I remember when we were little kids talking about this stuff, being 10, 11, 12 years old hanging out playing football in the front yard. When I saw him, it made it really real for me.”
To celebrate this staggering athletic achievement, Fitzpatrick decided to read a letter addressed to his mom. It was a humble moment of gratitude and an acknowledgment of just how far he has come.
— NFL (@NFL) April 27, 2018
“It was a tough time in my family’s life, but the only way we got through it was by sticking together as a unit, doing everything together, making decisions together and making sure everybody was all right,” Fitzpatrick explained to reporter in Miami.
Fitzpatrick is also a committed Christian, and he talked candidly about his faith during the address.
“And then of course, at the foundation of all of that, was our faith,” he declared. “Our faith in Christ kept us all rooted in the right things, kept our minds and our hearts in the right place. So that was how we did that.”
“It did affect my ability to play sometimes,” Fitzpatrick added. “At one time I told my family I was going to quit and just work and not go to (the) school I was going to because it was a private school, so my family had to pay. So, it did affect my mind-set a little bit; but after a while it kind of reverted my mindset onto something else and it made me work harder rather than just giving up.”
(H/T: Miami Herald)