By now, everyone knows the exploits of Minkah Fitzpatrick.
If you don’t, well, you must be sleeping more than Rip Van Winkle or living in a cave with no means of social media, or regular media, for that matter.
Fitzpatrick is the multi-talented football standout from St. Peter’s Prep. He’s ranked as the No.1 college prospect in the entire state and ranked among the top 15 players in the entire nation. Fitzpatrick has already given a verbal commitment to the University of Alabama to play football in Tuscaloosa for the legendary Nick Saban in 2015.
But there’s another side to Fitzpatrick. He’s also a standout in track and field and is doing quite well making a name for himself in that sport as well.
Fitzpatrick won the long jump at the recent Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships and finished second in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
Two weeks ago, at the NJSIAA Non-Public A North state sectionals, Fitzpatrick was second in the long jump, third in the 100-meter dash and third in the 200-meter dash.
Last week, at the overall Non-Public A state championships, Fitzpatrick finished second in the long jump and second in the 100-meter dash.
For his efforts, Fitzpatrick has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
St. Peter’s Prep first-year head coach Chris Caulfield always believed that Fitzpatrick was more than just a standout football player.
“I always knew he had the potential,” said Caulfield, a long-time assistant coach to current Ferris athletic director Mike Burgess before taking over the program this year. “He’s just a phenomenal athlete.”
Fitzpatrick took the indoor track season off to concentrate on his college visits.
“But as a true testament to his athletic ability, he was back on the track as soon as he could be there,” Caulfield said. “He also was working with me on the football field every chance he could. That proved to me what kind of work ethic he has.”
Fitzpatrick has always enjoyed participating in track and field since his grade school days growing up in Old Bridge.
“I actually ran track before I played football,” Fitzpatrick said. “I started playing football a year after track. I felt like I was always good in football, but I had fun running track. It gets me ready for football. That’s how I look at it. Running track prepares me for college and the speed I need to play in the SEC [the Southeast Conference, the nation’s premier football conference].”
Caulfield said that Fitzpatrick has the ability to compete in any event in track and field.
“I knew he could become one of our best track athletes,” Caulfield said. “In grade school, he even did the hurdles. He could be a great hurdler, but we don’t want to get him hurt. We keep him busy, but not too busy.”
Caulfield likes what Fitzpatrick has done this outdoor season without the full preparation.
“Since he wasn’t able to come out for indoors, I knew he might struggle with the 200 [meter dash],” Caulfield said. “The long jump has been his most impressive event, again because he didn’t get the equal amount of training that the others have had. He jumped 21-2 the first meet and 22 feet the second. The sky’s the limit there.”
Caulfield also believes that Fitzpatrick’s best event might be the triple jump.
“He didn’t compete in the triple jump this season,” Caulfield said. “Last year, with literally no training, he jumped 40 feet. I think it all has to do with his ability. He really has incredible talent.”
Caulfield likes what Fitzpatrick brings to the track.
“The one thing I’d say about the kid is that he’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached,” Caulfield said. “He’s just a competitive monster. He wants to win every race he’s in. He knows that’s not going to happen, but that’s what he wants. He might be a football player first, but he’s definitely committed to track and field as well. I think he’ll put together some pretty impressive performances next year as a senior.”
Fitzpatrick knows that he gains a lot of attention for football, especially being considered the top college prospect in the entire state.
“It does put a target on my back a little,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that comes in whatever I’m doing. A lot of people might let that get to their heads and get caught up in the rankings, but I’m not like that. I know I have a lot of work to do.”
Fitzpatrick’s teammate, quarterback Brandon Wimbush (headed for Penn State) is currently ranked No. 3 on that statewide prospect list. Fitzpatrick was asked if he kids with his friend and teammate about the rankings.
“I’d never do that,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s good to know that people respect us that much. We have to get it done this year.”
Which means Fitzpatrick and Wimbush will shoot for the elusive state championship. The Marauders lost to Paramus Catholic in the Non-Public Group 4 state title at MetLife Stadium last December.
“The most impressive thing is how he juggles the two sports,” Caulfield said. “He commutes every day from Old Bridge and that’s a hike. By the time he gets home, he has homework and he finds a way to get that done. Football is his bread and butter. Everyone knows that. He could easily say that he’s going to take the other two seasons off to concentrate on football season. Some days, he leaves track practice to go to football workouts. But he juggles it all.
Added Caulfield, “I’ve seen him grow up and mature. I had him in the classroom [teaching English] and he works just as hard in the classroom. He always wants to get better in everything he does.”
Caulfield said that Fitzpatrick has discussed the possibility of competing in track and field in Alabama as well.
“We were talking about it,” Caulfield said. “It would be hard to do outdoor because of spring football, but it seems like he’s not too opposed to do indoor.”
So even though Fitzpatrick is a top football prospect and is recognized nationwide for that, no one can sleep on his track abilities.
“I take pride in everything I do,” Fitzpatrick said. “I give 110 percent effort in everything I do.”
But he’s ready for the challenge ahead, namely Alabama.
“I feel good about that,” Fitzpatrick said. “I want football season to start now.” – Jim HagueJim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.