Over the next 16 days, we will feature Southern Arizona’s top football players. Our list continues today with Pusch Ridge Christian’s Taylor Fitzgerald, a record-breaking, touchdown-scoring scatback.
The rundown: Taylor Fitzgerald, RB/KR/DB, 5-8, 165, Pusch Ridge Christian, senior
Who he is: An elusive, undersized running back entering his third season on varsity. Fitzgerald set the school’s single-season rushing record during his sophomore year with 842 yards, and then reset the record last season with 1,334 yards. Fitzgerald also helped the Lions reach the postseason for the first time since 2010 last fall. Barring injury, he should set school records for career touchdowns, rushing yards and all-purpose yards. Pusch Ridge coach Troy Cropp, who has coached the senior since the seventh grade, said Fitzgerald’s vision and football I.Q. make him the perfect back for the Lions’ zone-read system. Cropp plans to use Fitzgerald as a pass catcher out of the backfield and as a returner. While the plan is to save his energy, Cropp said Fitzgerald’s knowledge of their system allows the flexibility to play him anywhere in the secondary.
Proof he’s good: Fitzgerald attended junior days at USC and the UA. The plan is to play Division I ball, but he’s open to being a preferred walk-on for his hometown Wildcats. A few FCS and NAIA schools have shown interest, too. Before college, however, Fitzgerald is focused on two goals: Reaching 2,000 yards rushing and scoring 25 touchdowns. As a junior, Fitzgerald accounted for 2,127 all-purpose yards, with 18 rushing touchdowns, three receiving and one on a return. He scored at least one touchdown in all but one game last year while averaging 121 yards a game and nine yards per carry.
He said it: “I remember watching him his freshman year playing on JV. The team wasn’t having a very good game. He snapped this interception and runs 95 yards. He outran everyone. I’m not sure he was the fastest guy out the field that game, but he just decided with 60 yards to the end zone to just go for it and it was over. The look in his eyes, you knew it was going to be a touchdown. That’s when I knew, all right, this kid’s got something.” — Cropp