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In praise of Nick Fitzgerald
Former Wildcat's numbers rank among conference's best, ever
Nick Fitzgerald hands off during Mississippi State's win over Mississippi in the Egg Bowl on Thursday night. - photo by Mississippi State Athletics photo

Nick Fitzgerald’s numbers are the stuff of which school legends are made. 

The Mississippi State senior and former Richmond Hill High School standout finished off his last regular season as a Bulldog with a 117-yard  performance, which means he now has run for 3,504 yards during his college football career. That's a lofty number, good enough to put Fitzgerald No. 21 among career rushing leaders in Southeastern Conference history. 

But the stats, while impressive, don’t tell the full story. For context, take a look at the other names on that list. 

In a real sense, that's the company Fitzgerald is keeping and it’s basically a “Who’s who?” of southern football greatness, starting with Georgia’s Herschel Walker,  No. 1 on the SEC career rushing list.

Walker, lest there be one or two folks out there who haven't heard of him, is one of the greatest college football players of all-time and a Heisman winner. He ran for 5,259 yards in three meteoric seasons and was the biggest single reason the Bulldogs won the 1980 national title. 

Behind Walker on the list are players like Nick Chubb and Darren McFadden and Bo Jackson and Emmitt Smith and Leonard Fournette and Sony Michel, just to name a handful of those who had impressive college careers as ball carriers. 

Fitzgerald's among them. 

In fact, he's now one spot behind No. 20 James Brooks, a former Auburn and NFL great, and one spot ahead of former Alabama standout Bobby Humphrey at No. 22 (which, ironically, is the jersey number Humphrey wore at Alabama, while Brooks wore 21).

UGA's Todd Gurley, now a star for the Los Angeles Rams, is seven spots and yards behind Fitzgerald on the SEC’s career rushing list.Granted, Gurley played three seasons, but still. 

Some older UGA fans might even remember Garrison Hearst, the former All-American and a first-round draft pick.He’s 10 spots behind Fitzgerald on the SEC’s career rushing list.

There's more than just career rushing yards to this story, however.  Fitzgerald has run for 45 touchdowns "from scrimmage," and that's good enough to tie him with “Bo Knows Football” Jackson and former Alabama sledgehammer Derrick Henry at No. 10 among SEC players. 

And Fitzgerald, as those who care about SEC football know, is a quarterback. And the only SEC quarterback to come close to Fitzgerald as a runner is Florida’s Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow, but Tebow’s at No. 47 all-time with 2,947 rushing yards.

By the way, Fitzgerald passed Johnny Football Manziel last season. 

Fitzgerald, who at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds looks like an NFL scout’s dream, has shown he’s more than just a running quarterback. He's got an arm, too. Add his passing and rushing yards together, and Fitzgerald is No. 16 all-time among quarterbacks in the SEC with 9,559 yards.

More importantly, if the aim of an offensive player is to get the ball in the endzone, Fitzgerald hits the mark. 

In the oddly-worded category “touchdowns responsible for,” Fitzgerald’s been responsible for 99 – which puts him two TDs behind Peyton Manning and Chris Leak on the SEC career list and a tie at No. 6 all time.

Fitzgerald's also shown he's tough, both before and after a broken ankle sidelined him last November. He's tied for No. 14 in total career plays with two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning, and since bowl games count Fitzgerald should move up that ladder into the top 10, which will rank him among such greats as Eli’s older brother, the aforementioned Peyton. 

Fitzgerald’s even got a game left to move up the SEC ladder in a number of categories, but even if there weren't, the quarterback who lists Richmond Hill as his hometown has already cemented a place among the Southeastern Conference's best players, ever. 

Addendum: Below is a copy and paste of some notes on the official Mississippi State regarding Fitzgerald’s career. They appear to have been written before the start of the 2018 season, but that’s OK. It just adds to the context:

 A National Player of the Year candidate who is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the nation … Tremendous speed, durability and a strong arm … Owns 11 school records – two career, four single-season and five single-game – and has shattered three SEC records – career 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback (14), single-season 100-yard rushing games by a QB (8 in 2016) and single-season average yards per rush by a QB (7.1 in 2016) … One of only four SEC QBs to throw for over 4,400 yards and rush for over 2,400 yards in a career … Voted a 2018 team captain after the spring game … Returns to the field after suffering a broken right ankle on Nov. 23, 2017 in the Egg Bowl … Underwent surgery on Nov. 24 and resumed running on March 7, 2018 … Participated in spring practice, doing 7-on-7 and individual drills but did not take a live rush and did not play in the spring game … Is expected to be full go come the fall … A dual-threat playmaker who enters his third straight year as a starter after serving as the backup to now Dallas Cowboys starter Dak Prescott as a redshirt freshman in 2015 … Played in 33 games with 25 starts and owns a 14-11 record as a starter … Accounted for 72 touchdowns – 39 passing and 33 rushing – which ranks second in school history and 21st in SEC annals … Leads all returning FBS QBs in career rushing touchdowns, 100-yard rushing games and average yards per carry … Racked up 6,926 yards of total offense, which is third in school history … Rushed for 2,486 yards, which is fourth-most by a QB in SEC history and 461 yards shy of Tim Tebow’s record … Averages 6.5 yards per rush, which is a school record … Thrown for 4,440 yards, which is eighth in school history … Rushed for multiple touchdowns in a game 13 times in his career, which is second-most in the SEC in the last 20 years … Seven times has thrown for multiple touchdowns and rushed for multiple touchdowns in the same game … Owns 81 rushes of 10 or more yards in his career and leads the SEC in that category since 2016 … No player in school history owns more 300-yard passing/100-yard rushing games (3) … Eight times has rushed for at least two touchdowns, rushed for at least 100 yards and thrown at least one touchdown pass in the same game, which is fourth nationally dating back to 2000 … Heads into the 2018 season having produced at least 100 yards rushing in 12 out of his last 19 games … Four times has been recognized as SEC Offensive Player of the Week … Engineered two fourth-quarter comebacks – Arkansas (2017) and St. Petersburg Bowl (2016) … Arrived on campus for Liberty Bowl practices in December 2013, redshirted as a true freshman in 2014 and now enters his fifth year with the program … Came from an offense at Richmond Hill High School that ran the triple-option where he threw only 78 passes as a senior … Played wide receiver as a junior at Richmond Hill before shifting to quarterback as a senior … Was offered a scholarship only by MSU and Middle Tennessee … A three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, who received his undergraduate degree in finance in December 2017 … Will play the 2018 season while working on post graduate studies.




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