Skip to main content
The Saban Top 100: No. 8 Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Saban Top 100: No. 8 Minkah Fitzpatrick

Publish date:

The Saban Top 100: No. 8 Minkah Fitzpatrick

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

8] Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB

  • Won 2017 Chuck Bednarik Award
  • Won 2017 Jim Thorpe Award
  • Became just the third player in history to win both awards in the same season joining eventual NFL Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and All-Pro Patrick Peterson
  • 2016 Consensus All-American; 2017 Unanimous All-American
  • 2016-17 All-SEC
  • 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft
  • Returned two picks for scores in 2016 and four interceptions for touchdowns during his career to set the Alabama all-time mark for pick-sixes
  • Team captain

On the list of personal goals for what would be his final season at Alabama, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick hoped to lead the NCAA in interceptions.  

He didn’t come close. 

Fitzpatrick had one in 2017, seven behind the leader, in part due to the positions he played and opponents being aware of where No. 29 lined up on each play. They were steadfast in making sure the defensive back didn’t have the opportunity. 

It’s one of the few things Fitzpatrick wasn’t able to accomplish during his illustrious Crimson Tide career. 

A couple of weeks after Alabama won the national championship, Fitzpatrick announced the decision that everyone expected, to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Of all the Crimson Tide underclassmen who had to make that choice during the Nick Saban era — and there have been a lot of them — his might have been the easiest. 

“It wasn’t a very difficult one,” he said. “It was a little bittersweet.” 

Fitzpatrick, who for a while in high school worked to help his family make ends meet after Hurricane Irene destroyed their home, ended up being the eight-overall selection by the Miami Dolphins and landing a four-year contract worth $16.4 million.  

It came after he played, and started, in three national championship games in as many years. 

Yeah, for Saban, playing the position that’s closest to the coaches’ heart. He was that good.

Overall, Fitzpatrick played in 42 games, missing just two. He was held out of his home game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, against Mercer, as an injury precaution, and against Charleston Southern his freshman year. 

While we learned a lot about Fitzpatrick over the years, including that he listed “Sabrina Claudio, Jennifer Lawrence and gotta go with JLo” as his biggest celebrity crushes, his toughness was what stood out at the end, especially during the College Football Playoff. 

“A lot of people don’t realize a lot of those guys have actually been banged up all year, especially Minkah,” former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. “Minkah’s had a lot of things going on early in the year.” 

Pruitt didn’t go into details, but being banged up was in addition to the hamstring injury at LSU, plus the bruised kidney that sent him to the hospital after the Clemson victory in New Orleans. Fitzpatrick played his final game wearing a flak jacket for extra protection, yet didn’t complain. He also never denied the rumor that he had been urinating blood. 

“I’m good, I was fine,” was all he would offer, even after his Crimson Tide career had ended. “I had to wear some extra protection, but I was good.” 

That’s leading by example, something at which he was terrific.

Fitzpatrick finished his career with 171 tackles, including 16.5 for a loss and five sacks, plus nine interceptions and three forced fumbles. His four pick-6s set an Alabama record, as did his 100-yard interception return against Arkansas. The 186 return yards in a single season stand second in the record book behind Eddie Jackson’s 230 in 2015. 

It was after Jackson got hurt that Fitzpatrick slid over to strong safety in the base defense near the end of the 2016 season. Again, he didn’t complain, even though Fitzpatrick came to Alabama with the hope of playing cornerback in preparation for the next level. 

Instead, he left as maybe the best defensive back to ever play for the Crimson Tide.

Fitzpatrick was a two-time All-American (unanimous in 2017), and the second Alabama winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player in as many years, joining Jonathan Allen. He was also Saban’s first winner of the Thorpe Award for best defensive back, which is amazing considering the players Saban has coached at a position that’s considered his specialty. 

“Minkah has just got all the right stuff,” Saban said. “He’s got a lot of ability, but he’s really driven in terms of work ethic, preparation, wanting to be successful. Just really great character and attitude, doesn’t get affected by a lot of other external factors, and just has a really high standard for what he expects of himself.” 

Moreover, for doing a lot of things that he didn’t brag about, such as his mission trip to Costa Rica, Fitzpatrick was named to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team, and was a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year.

“As good a player Minkah Fitzpatrick is on the field, he’s a better person off the field,” Pruitt said. “That tells you what kind of person he is.” 

Based on the accolades alone, Fitzpatrick has to be mentioned among the Crimson Tide all-time great defensive backs with Tommy Wilcox, Don McNeal and Antonio Langham, and then with his predecessors during the Saban era, including Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Landon Collins and Mark Barron. 

But no one was as versatile, and over such a long period of time. 

Detail oriented and a team captain, he could play every position in the secondary. Fitzpatrick went from earning regular playing time during his first season and being named a Freshman All-American to being named by his peers the MVP of the 2017 national championship team that overcame mass injuries. 

Fitzpatrick definitely made the most of his time on the Capstone. 

“The best three years of my life,” Fitzpatrick said during his exit news conference. “It was an honor and a blessing to be part of this university. I’m forever grateful.” 

The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:

Introduction

Read More

No. 9: C.J. Mosley 

No. 10: Amari Cooper

No. 11: Rolando McClain

No. 12: Trent Richardson

No. 13: Andre Smith

No. 14: Quinnen Williams

No. 15: Dont'a Hightower

No. 16: Jerry Jeudy

No. 17: Jalen Hurts

No. 18: Reuben Foster

No. 19: Chance Warmack

No. 20: Mark Barron

No. 21: Jonah Williams

No. 22: Da'Ron Payne

No. 23: Ryan Kelly

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr., Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

8] Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB

  • Won 2017 Chuck Bednarik Award
  • Won 2017 Jim Thorpe Award
  • Became just the third player in history to win both awards in the same season joining eventual NFL Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and All-Pro Patrick Peterson
  • 2016 Consensus All-American; 2017 Unanimous All-American
  • 2016-17 All-SEC
  • 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft
  • Returned two picks for scores in 2016 and four interceptions for touchdowns during his career to set the Alabama all-time mark for pick-sixes
  • Team captain
Member Exclusive

Get Exclusive Access to Bama Central Content