By Jordan Ingram
Main Line Life Sportswriter
Brian FitzPatrick still remembers it like it was yesterday.
A 36-point blowout to the University of Penn Quakers to end the 2007 season stuck to the former EA standout the entire offseason.
“The off-season started for us in the locker room at Franklin Field last year where we got embarrassed,” said FitzPatrick. “It was real tough because it was my last [college] game in Philadelphia and to lose like that made me want to play them the next day. At that point we decided that we’re going to have to do some different stuff as a program and we came together.”
Earning a hard-fought 21-20 victory against Bucknell to open the 2008 season was a small relief, but far from a cure.
Heading into their Ivy League opener against Yale University, the Big Red will be expecting a lot from FitzPatrick who didn’t even catch a pass on opening day. FitzPatrick did not complain about his production in the first game, instead he focused on improving for the next contest.
“Between my fellow receivers and the quarterbacks we have a great relationship,” said FitzPatrick. “We don’t really have a set of starting receivers because we rotate about eight guys that are capable of being starters.”
Last season the 5-foot-10 senior only saw limited action after suffering a torn hamstring during training camp. Since FitzPatrick didn’t redshirt after the injury, he was able to return to the lineup for the final three games of the season where he only gained 38 yards.
The team has shown added dedication to their preparation during the week to ensure that finishing 2-5 in the Ivy League is a thing of the past. With players that come from 30 different states, everyone still found time to participate in voluntary weekend two-man camps at Cornell.
This season the former Inter-Ac Player of the Year is putting his stats aside to help the career end on a good note. It started with his attitude, which spread.
“The big thing we really wanted to change this year was the attitude people brought to the locker room,” said FitzPatrick, “people needed to devote themselves more than in the past.”
“People worked hard during the week but lost focus when they got off the field but we wanted to make the culture that you’re a football player 24/7 and keep it on your mind at all times.”
Staying in a constant football mindset even extends to talking about the gameplan in the cafeteria in between classes for FitzPatrick and his teammates. It was simple: Think, eat, sleep, and talk football off the field, and hope the results show on the field.
“Once we started getting game film of teams, we’re always talking about which guys we want to exploit or plays that will work during games,” said FitzPatrick. “We talk about the gameplan all the time whether we’re in practice or we’re walking home from the stadium after practice. It makes the game easier.”
FitzPatrick has also gained a keener awareness of how to execute and manipulate opposing team’s gameplans from daily phone discussions with former high school teammate, Greg Isdaner. At EA Isdaner blocked for FitzPatrick who played quarterback for the Churchmen. With the 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive lineman as a safety net, FitzPatrick was able to produce 25 touchdowns passing and rushing as a senior at Episcopal.
The versatile FitzPatrick loves being able to watch his former teammate flourish at West Virginia and loves getting a preview of what’s to come on Saturdays.
“He’s my best friend and I talk to [Isdaner] almost four times a week where we give each other our scouting reports on the teams we’re playing,” Fitzpatrick said. “I know West Virginia’s gameplan before they play the game because we talk about it the entire night before.”
In the Inter-Ac FitzPatrick also played against current Atlanta Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and former Haverford School signal caller Bryan Savage. At Episcopal, his notable classmates included Duke’s Gerald Henderson and North Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He’s a proud EA alum.
“I brag about every single one of those guys to the people on my team,” said FitzPatrick. “It’s fun to be able to watch all of them on television and say that I was around them in high school.”
With his uncle being an assistant coach on the Churchmen football team, FitzPatrick is also able to keep up with Episcopal’s progress during his leisure time. He even works out with some of the younger Churchmen during the offseason. His younger brother, Bobby, graduated from EA earlier this year, but that doesn’t stop him from rooting for the Churchmen, who started this week off 3-0.
“I have a lot of pride in Episcopal…I definitely stay as involved with the team as much as I can,” said FitzPatrick.
The loss to the Quakers last season not only left a bad taste in his mouth, but it was his last chance to play in Philadelphia. Two of the first three games on Cornell’s schedule are in Pennsylvania including a game at Lehigh, so he does have a chance to get a few victories in front of some familiar faces.
“I can’t wait because Lehigh is closer to home than any other game we’ll play this year,” FitzPatrick. “I drive past Lehigh on the way to Ithaca [N.Y.], for school, so I’m looking forward to my last true home game in front of a bunch of my family members.”