When it comes to Northwestern Wildcats football, there are few players that come close in prestige to Pat Fitzgerald. A ferocious linebacker who led the Wildcats to a Big Ten Championship in 1997, Fitz became the youngest head coach in FBS history when he assumed control of the Wildcats in 2006 after the sudden passing of head coach Randy Walker.
As a head coach, Fitz can boast the second-most wins in school history and has helped rewrite a Northwestern football legacy of losing and disappointment. And while the ‘Cats have still failed to win a bowl game in five tries in the Fitz era, there is one category the coach leads NCAA football in: on-field enthusiasm.
So, with the providence of 21st century technology, it is with great pride that North By Northwestern presents the definitive guide to Pat Fitzgerald GIFs.
Being the head coach of a Big Ten football team isn’t easy. It requires days and days of recruiting, running practices, formulating plays and dealing with blood-sucking sports writers (and blood-sucking sports writers-in-training). So when game time rolls around, Fitz’ time and attention can’t be spared for anything other than the game at hand. Running Northwestern's no huddle offense requires extreme attention to detail and making difficult decisions that can dratically alter the outcome of the game under immense pressure.
The job is not for the faint of heart, but even a coach with Fitz's mental toughness and composure can break a sweat or two. Luckily, he has a member of the Northwestern Athletics team to wipe his brow in the midst of play-calling, so the decisions he makes are completely uninterrupted.
We are not quite sure who is responsible for keeping our beloved head coach dry and comfortable on the sidelines, but who ever he may be, we raise our claws in salute.
At 37-years-old, Fitz isn’t too much older than some of the players he coaches. In fact, he was only a high school senior when most of his players were born. So when his players make big plays, Fitz celebrates with them.
This GIF encapsulates why Northwestern students love Fitz: besides the fact that he’s a skilled recruiter who’s helped turn this godforsaken football team around, he’s almost like one of us. He’s as emotionally invested in his alma mater as we are and isn’t afraid to show it on national TV, like he did in this clip from the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Some coaches, like former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Alabama's Nick Saban, are known for emotional restraint. But like his players, Fitz leaves it all out on the field, even if the celebrations are restrained to the first three quarters.
Of course, things don’t always go so well for the Wildcats, and Fitz doesn’t like when that happens. Penalties, like the one Northwestern received in this clip, happen in football, but apparently Fitz thought the call was bad.
Fitz isn’t one to keep anything inside, though. The fact of the matter is, Wildcat football is often filled with more questions than answers, like "Why doesn't our team realize there are four quarters in a football game?", "Why doesn't every team just pass against us?" and "Who is our starting quarterback again?" While Fitz may not be able to answer each or any of these questions, when he's perplexed, you will know.
Northwestern’s fast-paced no huddle offense calls for frequent visual and auditory signals from the sidelines, and this appears to be one of them.
Of course, we’ll never really know with which play or motion this particular sign is correlated, but one thing is for certain: Coach Fitz has swag. Not that newfangled, “YOLO” swag, but old school 90’s swag. And if you need proof, listen to this song while watching that GIF. You’re welcome.
In all seriousness, these GIFs represent why we love Fitz so much. He takes his job seriously, puts a hell of a team on the field and can keep us entertained on the sidelines with his passion.
Oh yeah, 6-1 isn’t too shabby either.