When it comes to the gridiron, Stacy Fitzgerald has come full circle.
The wife of Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, Stacy serves as president of the North Shore Griffins, the youth football program where their sons, Brendan, Jack and Ryan, all play.
“I wouldn’t say I fell in love with it, but I’ve always loved football,” Stacy said. “When we started dating, I had a teacher who was one of his coaches. He would teach me the terminology like ‘wrap up,’ so I could tell Pat after games he needs to wrap up more. We dated all through college, and he went from being a player to a coach, so I’ve been around it a long, long time.”
Although she is in her second year as president and fifth year with the program, this is the first season all three of Stacy’s sons are able to play for the Griffins, which consists of four teams (Varsity Silver, Middleweight Black, Featherweight Gold and Bantam White) and is for kids ages 7-14. Jack, 11, is in sixth grade; Ryan, 9, is in fourth grade; and Brendan, 7, is in second grade.
“Jack plays offensive line, so I’ve been learning to watch for him and his blocks,” Stacy said. “Ryan is playing quarterback this year, so he’s trying to teach me all of the plays. He jumbles off some letters and numbers. I say ‘I won’t remember that, but I knew the formation.’ Brendan is playing right guard and wide receiver.”
The North Shore Griffins are part of The Chicago Youth Football League, the largest independent youth football league in the United States. Stacy became president after the past president’s son went on to eighth grade.
“I’ve got a great board that helps run all of the different parts,” Stacy said. “My job, basically, is just to oversee and make sure all of the parts are working. I took on the leadership role to make sure we have a good program still running for the boys and to keep it going.”
Stacy said she also likes the different life lessons playing football teaches her sons.
“They learn to work together, to be a teammate, to be a leader, to have to deal with defeat — in a play or a game,” she said. “Especially on a play, like, ‘You got tackled,’ or ‘You fumbled the ball. Now, you can’t sulk, you’ve got to bounce back on that next play.’ It’s fun to watch them do it or come up and say, ‘Jack helped after that bad play’ or, ‘Ryan was leading the huddle.’ Even though you don’t think they’re listening, they are actually hearing what I’m saying.”
Of course, football also allows for even more bonding between Pat, who played linebacker at Northwestern and is a member of the university’s athletics hall of fame, and the boys. Pat led the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and an Outback Bowl berth in 2015.
“It’s a lot of fun now that they use Hudl just like the college teams do,” Stacy said. “We just had our first game sent home and Ryan was like, ‘Dad, dad, dad … come in here.’ He wanted to go over the whole game with Pat. It was really cute.”
Stacy said she thoroughly enjoys being such a big part of the game that is such a big part of the lives of her husband and their boys.
“I don’t think they know any different,” she said of her kids. “Before I was president, I was the vice chair, so mom’s always been around. I wasn’t involved the first year Jack started, but the second year I got involved.”
And she has clearly take the whole “wrap up” thing to heart.