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Minkah Fitzpatrick ready to learn, challenge himself, work hard

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2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

With the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. On Friday, Fitzpatrick made his first official appearance as an NFL player, joining the rest of the first-year players in South Florida for the Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. The Dolphins will use their three-day minicamp as a chance to introduce the rookies to the NFL, with classes focusing on off-the-field things as well as working in the classroom for on-field expectations.

The weekend will also feature the first press conferences for the rookies. Fitzpatrick did just that Friday afternoon, and he spoke about his Draft experience as well as his expectations for himself during the season.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Fitzpatrick said of if he was surprised he fell to the 11th pick. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew I could go as early as No. 4 and I knew I could go as late as No. 32. So whatever happened, happened. I was just excited just to be there and I’m happy that the Dolphins picked me up.”

He continued, explaining what was going through his mind during the first ten picks, stating, “Anybody could have picked me and anybody could have passed up on me. So I was just talking to my family, talking to Coach (Nick) Saban, talking to everybody. (I was) just enjoying the moment.”

The Dolphins selected Fitzpatrick to give them a versatile player who can be used in multiple positions on the defense, including playing as a center-fielder free safety, a cornerback, a dime linebacker, and a tight end coverage option. He can line up all around the defense, and he can play alongside Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald in three-safety formations. What does Fitzpatrick believe he will bring to the team? “I’m just going to be myself and do what I have to do,” he explained. “I talked to (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase, I talked to (Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Matt) Burke and they all said the same thing: ‘Just be yourself. Do what you’ve got to do to become your best self,” and with that, I’m going to help this team out. Whether that be pushing myself, challenging myself in ways that I usually do, that’s going to better the people around me because they’re going to want to do the same thing. So it’s just doing what I have to do to be the best possible version of myself and that’s going to overall benefit the team. That’s it, really.”

Fitzpatrick returned to the ‘challenge himself’ idea when speaking about his personal expectations for playing time and stats from this upcoming season. “I’m just going out there and working my hardest every day, challenging the people around me and challenging myself. Whatever happens, happens. I mean I would like to be [a starter or major contributor]. I don’t think anybody doesn’t want to play; but if I’m not that … I hope to be the best out there. I’m going to work to be the best out there so I can contribute to the team.”

Having a Pro Bowl safety in Jones and a veteran in McDonald at the position already gives Fitzpatrick an ability to lean on some established players as he transitions to the NFL. “It definitely helps out because I can go to them for anything,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can ask them about off-the-field stuff, I can ask them about on-the-field stuff. I can just soak it all in and learn from both of them and a couple of other guys and a couple of other vets. That’s it, really. Just sitting underneath their wings, grow underneath them and whatever happens, happens.”

When speaking of his best fit, whether it be as a free safety, a cornerback, or some combination of roles, Fitzpatrick was fairly succint with where home is for him, “On the football field.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has called Fitzpatrick his best player ever, which is an incredible complimnet coming from a coach who never gives compliments. Asked about Saban’s words, Fitzpatrick answered, “It’s a major compliment coming from him. Like you said, he doesn’t give them out often. He’s had a lot of great players come underneath him and he hasn’t said too much about them so when you receive a compliment from him, it means a lot. I’m honored to have played for him. I learned a lot from him. I’ve just got to live up to his compliments. I can’t let it get to my head. I’ve just got to keep on pushing forward, receive it, and that’s it.”

Fitzpatrick believes he will be able to repeat his fast assimilation into Alabama’s defense, where he started as a freshman, with his absorption of the Dolphins’ defense and preparation for the NFL season, “It’s not too much different. It’s almost the same exact defense. There are a couple of wrinkles here and there. Of course, the terminology is different, so I have to learn terminology; but football is football. It doesn’t really change too much within one season. I just learn it by doing it – processing things, learning the concepts and not just trying to memorize things because when you know the concepts, you know what everyone else is doing around you. It helps you out. That’s what I try to do.”

Fitzpatrick’s preparation does not come without hard work, however. A report has indicated Fitzpatrick would show up to the film room six hours before a game just so he could get in extra study of his upcoming opponent. “I thought that was a common practice that people did,” he explained. “I thought that people just watched film before the games. I would either watch it in my hotel room on the iPad or I would go in before meetings and just watch film in the meeting rooms, just breaking down some small stuff, going over formations, going over different plays and stuff like that. I just assumed everybody did (that).”

When asked if he always felt like he had to do things like the extra film study, Fitzpatrick replied, “Yes. You should always do that. If you’re going to be great, you’ve always got to do extra. There’s no extraordinary without extra. This is just what I’ve always done.”

Fitzpatrick will now bring his extra - and his extraordinary - to the Dolphins for the 2018 season. It should be a fun one to watch.