Longhorn Hall of Honor: Pat Fitzgerald
Nov. 12, 2011
Justin Perez, Texas Media Relations
The story of Pat Fitzgerald is a fantastical one about someone who achieved greatness without initial recognition. As a high school football player, Fitzgerald did not receive any offers from major schools to play football.
Instead of giving up on the dream, the Southern California native decided to stay near home and play at Los Angeles Valley Community College hoping to get noticed. Texas wound up taking a chance on him, and it paid off for Fitzgerald and the Longhorns.
Fitzgerald entered UT as a community college transfer and left as the most statistically productive tight end in UT history. He pulled off the rare double feat of earning first-team Academic All-American and first-team Associated Press All-American honors in the same season (1996).
As a two-year starter and three-year letterman, Fitzgerald played a key role in the Longhorns claiming the final two Southwest Conference Championships (1994, 1995) and the first-ever Big 12 title (1996). Fitzgerald was a two-time first-team CoSIDA/GTE Academic All-American (1995-96) and two-time All-American (1995-96).
After a decorated collegiate career at Texas, Fitzgerald was drafted in the seventh round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
“That was an amazing feeling.” Fitzgerald said. “Being drafted after having gone to junior college was an amazing feeling. The pinnacle of my career up to that point.”
Life as a professional athlete had become a reality. During training camp with the Bills, Fitzgerald had a great chance to make the team but was placed on injured reserve. The injury occurred during practice, and he wound up tearing ligaments in his ankle. During the offseason in Buffalo, Fitzgerald decided to take the LSAT in preparation for life after football.
The injury to his ankle allowed Fitzgerald to reexamine his career. Fitzgerald had passed the LSAT and began applying to law schools as he came back to Austin to work in commercial real estate. At that point, it seemed like a career in football was almost dead, but then he received an opportunity to play for the Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europe.
Nagging injuries led to Fitzgerald not making the Frankfurt roster, but on the same day Fitzgerald was cut, he was accepted into UT Law School. The decision had been made, and Fitzgerald was ready to move on to the next stage of his life.
“The day that I got cut from Frankfurt, I knew I was done. I was going to law school.” Fitzgerald said. “It was a very good feeling. I knew that I had pushed football as far as I could, and I was exhausted from the constant stress of not knowing where you would be from year to year.”
Fitzgerald began studying in the UT Law School in the fall of 1999, and since his graduation in 2002 he has been a practicing lawyer in the Austin area. Austin has always had an appeal to Fitzgerald, and if he had the choice, he would never leave.
“After law school, if I would have had to go to Dallas or Houston, I probably would have gone back to California,” Fitzgerald said. “But Austin is such a great town to live in, and I’ve been fortunate enough to stick around here.”
Fitzgerald currently works for a small firm here in Austin and is married. He and his wife are expecting their second child this month.