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Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern University

Is this a cop-out? Yes, it's a cop-out.

I'm supposed to pick a former athlete who excelled on the field and also took action off of it. Northwestern's annals are filled with these types of guys. I mean, look at Al Netter, who I would write about if I was allowed to write about current players, who just brought home the AFCA Good Works Award for his off-field good deeds in addition to being a spectacular lineman.

Let's take a second to ignore everything Pat Fitzgerald does as head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats. He played here as a linebacker, and won two defensive player of the year awards in back-to-back seasons. Then, pro football didn't work out, and his choice of what to do after college wasn't much of a choice: he wanted to come back to Northwestern.

Pat Fitzgerald's dedication to the NU community is almost fanatical. In the midst of the JoePa scandal (not to bring that up but bear with me), when we saw the news that a school's coach and president had been fired, a girl asked me "could you imagine if Northwestern fired Fitz and Morty?" and it was a real question. Fitz is a rallying point for our community, and it's not just because of his coaching and intensity/dedication to saying the same thing every week, which I think we can all agree annoys us from time to time.

In the press conference on Monday, Pat Fitzgerald took a brief moment to talk about something he didn't have to: this week, Northwestern is hosting cancer-stricken children from the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, the primary benefactor of 2012 Dance Marathon. The team hosted the kids in practice and they'll be at the game Saturday. This will be my first year doing DM, so I can't act like a spokesperson for it, but suffice it to say few things unite this school - well, besides football and maybe basketball - more than DM, and Fitz is a part of that: there's a reason he shows up every year somewhere in the middle of everybody being pissed off they still have to stand up to cheer at people, and I don't think it's because he thinks it will convince eight more kids to go to NU home games the next year. He realizes his role in this community, and the fact that little things like that go a long way.

I hate slurping Pat Fitzgerald, but tell me who else I should have described.

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