TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t often heap praise on individual players, so when he does, you know it’s well earned.
A few former Crimson Tide players who have earned public admiration from Saban include Julio Jones, Rolando McClain, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram and Jonathan Allen.
Add Minkah Fitzpatrick to that exclusive list.
When asked how Fitzpatrick’s versatility helps Alabama’s defense, Saban used it as an opportunity to praise Fitzpatrick’s work ethic.
“Minkah does it as well as anybody I’ve ever coached, in terms of how he works every day, how he finishes plays, his conditioning level, just phenomenal,” Saban said. “Pays attention to detail. It’s important to him. Makes sure he knows what to do.”
Saban came across as a proud father speaking about one of his sons.
“A lot of players that are good players I’ve heard them say ‘I’m saving it for the game.’ Every one of those players, and all those teams that I’ve been on that the players say that, none of them are worth a sh*t. He doesn’t do that. He works every day to get better.
“I hope we have more and more players who work like him, because when you have players that do that, you usually have a pretty good team. He sets a great example and we’re excited to be able to utilize him in a lot of different ways.”
Fitzpatrick should be considered one of the favorites to win the Thorpe Award heading into his junior season. He is one of the most versatile defensive backs in the country.
As a true freshman, Fitzpatrick lined up at nickel defensive back (star) with Cyrus Jones and Marlon Humphrey manning the cornerback spots for its 2015 national championship team.
Last season, Fitzpatrick seamlessly made the transition to safety after Eddie Jackson broke his leg against Texas A&M.
Fitzpatrick finished fourth on the team last season with 66 tackles. He added 5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Fitzpatrick’s team-high 6 interceptions was tied for seventh in the country.
A rising junior, Fitzpatrick is one of a few Alabama underclassmen who have an opportunity to leave school early for the NFL Draft following this season. He has the versatility NFL coaches love. Fitzpatrick is a player who can line up at cornerback, nickel defensive back and safety and not lose a step.
Fitzpatrick also is a ballhawk with a nose for the end zone. In two years, Fitzpatrick has intercepted 8 passes and returned 4 for touchdowns.