Noah Fitzgerald and Marcus Hicks were among the biggest stars on Old Mill’s defense last season, with Fitzgerald typically wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage and Hicks prowling the secondary. Off the field, each refers to the other as his big or little brother.
But when it came time for Fitzgerald, now a rising senior at Old Mill, to make his college choice, he knew that he had to make it on his own. He fell in love with Fordham because of its top-10 finish in the Football Championship Subdivision rankings last season, its elite business school and its pristine location in New York City.
“Having [Hicks] there is just an added bonus,” Fitzgerald said.
The outside linebacker visited Fordham last weekend and orally committed Saturday to join his former teammate on the Rams’ defense beginning in 2015. Fitzgerald passed up offers from Bucknell, Toledo, Georgetown, Wofford and Monmouth, as well as opportunities to play at Cornell and Yale.
“It’s an up-and-coming program,” Fitzgerald said. “Top 10 in football, top 10 business school and it’s in the middle of the Bronx. New York City’s right there. I never really experienced any big city living, so I figured it’d be a good experience for me.”
Hicks, who committed to Fordham last winter, said he didn’t make much of a pitch for Fitzgerald to join him at Fordham. In fact, Hicks didn’t arrive at his new school until Sunday, one day after Fitzgerald’s visit.
That’s not to say Hicks didn’t give his old teammate advice. He told Fitzgerald to think not just about where he would be comfortable for four years, but also where he could make the most of academic opportunities to prepare for life after football.
“I just told him to come check out the school for himself,” Hicks said. “He’s like a little brother to me, so I wanted him to choose somewhere that was going to benefit him, not only as a player but as a person.”
Fitzgerald stressed Fordham’s strengths as a school first but also acknowledged the allure of the football program. A rangy, athletic linebacker, he expects to play as a linebacker-safety hybrid in the Rams’ unique defensive scheme. He called the position “a safety inside the box,” and said the play-making freedom in that role is appealing.
It doesn’t hurt that the player currently manning that spot at Fordham, rising senior Stephen Hodge, was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year last season. He was among the nation’s leaders, including FCS and FBS, in solo tackles.
“It’s what I’m comfortable with,” Fitzgerald said. “At Old Mill we blitz a lot, so I’m used to coming off the edge hard, sacking quarterbacks, making plays in the backfield. And a school that will allow me to do that is definitely going to intrigue me a little bit more.
“They put [Hodge] in position to make plays. He’s like first-team all everything in that conference. He’s probably one of the best players in Fordham history. So to follow up a person like that, being able to fill the role, or at least try to, will be a great challenge for me.”
While Fitzgerald and Hicks ultimately saw their recruiting processes reach the same conclusion, they approached them in different ways. Hicks waited to play out his senior year before committing, while Fitzgerald is excited to have the process behind him before Old Mill’s season kicks off in a couple months.
“For me personally, it wasn’t a thing that I wanted to rush but it wasn’t a thing that I wanted to prolong,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t want to stress too much about performing to a point where I had to pretty much perform my way into getting more offers or finding a place I really wanted to be. I knew when I went to Fordham that it was the place for me … and once I figured it was the place I wanted to be, why wait?”
Summer Workouts: Quince Orchard DE Adam McLean finds strength through conditioning
Recruit Watch: The latest offers, commitments and signings