Baltimore City

Athlete of the Year excelled in three sports

John Fitzgerald's athletic ability is off the charts.

His coaches at Gilman say he is talented enough to play football, basketball or baseball in college.


The senior had it all.

"He was big, physical and had great hand-eye coordination," said St. Frances Academy football coach Henry Russell, who served as Gilman's linebackers and associate head coach last fall. "He could do whatever you asked him to do."


The 2016 Baltimore Messenger male Athlete of the Year earned All-State honors in football, All-Metro honors in baseball and started on the Greyhounds' basketball team.

Fitzgerald will play football at Cornell University, choosing the Big Red over Ivy League rivals Yale, Princeton and Columbia universities.

"When I visited the campus, I felt very comfortable with all the players and coaches," said Fitzgerald, who graduated with a 3.5 grade-point average. "They made me feel like family. They have strong academics, which I was looking for. They understand you are a student-athlete and care about your future."

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Fitzgerald shined as both a linebacker and tight end during his senior year.

"We only had two guys that went both ways," Russell said. "We asked a lot from John, and he absolutely stepped up to the plate for us."

Fitzgerald caught 27 passes for 437 yards and five touchdowns for the 10-1 Greyhounds.

He had four catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns — including one for 53 yards — in Gilman's 35-28 victory over McDonogh last November in the 100th football game between the archrivals.

Fitzgerald, a three-year starter at tight end, also hauled in three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in the Greyhounds' 41-0 victory over Friendship Academy two weeks before torching the Eagles.


"He always made that big play in the passing game when we needed him to," Russell said. "You could always just rely on him. He was a mainstay."

Fitzgerald totaled 68 tackles, six sacks, 10 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception in his second year as a starter at linebacker.

"He was a leader of the defense," Russell said. "He made plays against the run and was outstanding dropping back into pass coverage as a linebacker."

The Gilman coaching staff also valued Fitzgerald for his leadership abilities.

He served as team co-captain last fall.

"He set the standard for everyone with his work ethic," Russell said. "He was last guy to leave the weight room."


After taking a year off to join the indoor track team, Fitzgerald returned to earn a starting nod on the basketball team as a senior.

"He was muscle guy inside," Gilman assistant basketball coach Randy Dase said. "He played real tough defense and he really knew how to get the rebounds and loose balls. He was very important to us this year."

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Fitzgerald knew his role on the court.

"I just did the dirty work and was the hustle guy," he said. "I would guard the other team's best big man."

For the Gilman baseball team that lost in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game to Archbishop Spalding this past spring, Fitzgerald led the Greyhounds in home runs (4), doubles (8) and RBIs (26) while ranking second in bating average (.389).

Fitzgerald had some memorable games. He hit two home runs and went 3-for-3 in an 8-1 victory over John Carroll on April 27 and also had four hits and three RBIs in a 9-5 conquest of McDonogh two weeks earlier.


"He hit the ball so hard," Gilman baseball coach Larry Sheets said. "He waits a long time and really drives the ball to the opposite field."

Sheets loved Fitzgerald's versatility. He played first base, right field and third this season.

"He just did it on athletic ability," the coach said. "I don't think any of us knew how good a baseball player he could have been because he was dabbling in so much stuff."