Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An interview with J.B. Fitzgerald

J.B. Fitzgerald holds the ball high after recovering a fumble in the 2011 Nebraska game.
School of Kinesiology graduate and three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree J.B. Fitzgerald came to Michigan as a member of the 2008 recruiting class.  He subsequently appeared in 50 games throughout his four year career as both a reserve linebacker and special teams starter.  Seeing action in all thirteen games his senior year, J.B. finished his Michigan career with 54 tackles, a forced fumble, and a recovered fumble.  Fitzgerald has focused on non-football related endeavors since graduation and was actually out of the country when I contacted him about an interview.  However, he still made time one late August afternoon to answer several Michigan football questions via email, and update us on his immediate plans.

(1.)  Now that you have earned your Michigan degree, what do you plan on doing next?

"Once I return from my Europe trip, I will be moving out to California and beginning my professional career in Los Angeles in the entertainment business."

(2.)  What's your favorite Michigan memory?

"So many great memories, first bowl game was great due to the ones we missed out on my first two years, but this whole last year feels like one amazing memory, especially the way we ended it down in New Orleans."

(3.)  If you had to choose, who was your favorite coach at Michigan, including position coaches?

"So many great coaches I had the privilege of learning from, which I expected going into a program like Michigan. Two coaches really stand out.  First, Greg Robinson - truly a class act and the depth of football knowledge that I was able to gain from him is hard to put a price on. And then of course Coach Hoke. Coach Hoke is pretty much everything that you could ever want in a head coach and more. What a privilege it was for me to be able to play for him my senior year.  I see nothing but great success for him and Michigan moving forward."

(4.)  Who was the best player you played with at Michigan?

"Best player is a really hard one because there was so much talent. Obviously, Denard is an incredible talent and someone I was very glad to not have to play against when it counted. However, overall I would probably go with Brandon Graham. The things that BG could do from the end position, especially the speed and quickness from a guy his size truly just left me in awe so many times."

(5.)  Who was the smartest player you played with at Michigan?

"I'd probably say the smartest player I played with would have to be Jordan Kovacs. Obviously everyone knows his story and what not but when you get past the walk-on story, the way he plays he game is just brilliant. I almost feel like the game just moves slower for him because he just always seemed to not just be in the right place at the right time but making the right move at the right time as well. And his production clearly backs that up as well."

(6.)  Who do you think will be Michigan's breakout player in 2012?

"A player that I think will 'breakout' for me is tough to say because I just see a few guys that already started to make a name for themselves just really elevate their game this year and start to become big, big time guys. Those guys are Blake countess, Jake Ryan, and Frank Clark. All three will be some of the best at their positions in the country by the time they're done.  But if I had one big breakout for this year I'd go with Brennen Beyer - gonna be a machine, I believe."

(7.)  Have you read John U. Bacon's book Three and Out?  If so, what did you think about it?

"My parents actually gave me a copy of the John Bacon book for Christmas and I have begun reading it, although I am not very far in unfortunately (very slow reader ha)."

(8.)  What advice would you give to freshmen as they begin their first season?

"To the younger guys just starting out, I know it may sound a little cliche, but I would say above all else, get the school work done so you can get your degree. At the end of it all, if you have a degree from the University of Michigan, it really sets you up in life. And as far as football goes, the kind of player you want to be is all up to you."


  1. Ummm....did he really say Greg (GERG) Robinson?

    1. Greg Robinson was his position coach, so it's likely that they made a strong bond. Additionally, Robinson didn't get to be a DC in the NFL and a head coach in college by being a chucklehead. I'm sure he has some leadership qualities that we didn't quite get to see when he was being forced to run a 3-3-5 by Rich Rodriguez.

    2. I'm always interested whenever anybody mentions Greg Robinson having been "forced" to run a 3-3-5 defense.
      I am in no position to declare that it is untrue; however, I have never once seen any good evidence that it in fact happened that way. All we know that the 3-3-5 is what Rodriguez was used to looking at, at WVU. And it was his choice to run ethat particular defense. And that Greg Robinson had never before run that defense (at least th way that West Virginia had) and had little previous experience with it. Ergo, Greg Robinson was "forced" to employ and coach the 3-3-5.
      So they say.
      But surely you can see why one thing does not equal the other. Why wouldn't Rodriguez have spoken to GERG, and said, "Greg, let's talk about defensive schemes; I have some pretty strong ideas, and I want to discuss them with you and get to some understanding about where we want to go..."? And presume further that GERG had that discussion, heard Rodriguez out, and ultimately said, "Okay, I'm good with that..."? Is that "forcing" Robinson?
      I'm really not trying to pick some far-out theory just for the sake of argument. The simple fact is, my theory sounds like the most normal sequence in the world, and the notion of a scheme being "forced" on an unwilling, disagreeing, (even hostile?) assistant seems like one of the least likely scenarios...
      Greg Robinson came in on the heels of Scott Schafer being fired, with the distinct possibility that a "scheme" dispute was part of the underlying disagreement. Does it make sense that scheme was not discusssed with Greg Robinson while interviewing for the Michigan job?

      Section 1

  2. RE GERG: I think a follow-up question about Doctor Vorax would have been appropriate.

  3. I finally finished Three and Out over the memorial day weekend having bought it for sure within a month or less after it came out.

    It made me sick to my stomach every time I picked it up.

    It's pretty easy to understand Fitzgerald not being able to get through it, having lived it.

  4. As an aside, we haven't a got reading list from Thunder in a long time.