Dez Fitzpatrick’s connection with Lamar Jackson started during the latter’s Heisman Trophy season.
The Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver has made sure to maintain it ever since.
“We always keep in touch,” Fitzpatrick said during the Titans’ rookie minicamp. “I just continue to ask him how he was so successful his rookie year. The draft process, I was continuously, always on his phone asking him questions.”
Jackson won the Heisman in 2016 and returned to school for one more season before the Baltimore Ravens made him a first-round pick (32nd overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. He took charge of the Ravens’ offense midway through his rookie season and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in his second year. He has started at least one playoff game every season since he entered the league.
Fitzpatrick redshirted as a true freshman in 2016 and then had his best season – statistically speaking – in 2017, when he caught 45 passes for 699 yards and nine touchdowns with Jackson as his quarterback.
Over the next three years he averaged 36.3 receptions and had 12 touchdown catches. Along the way, the program changed coaches, going from Bobby Petrino in 2018 to Scott Satterfield, a move that shifted the offense from a pass-happy scheme to one that relied much more on the run game. Fitzpatrick’s yards-per catch improved every season even if his reception total never measured up to the season that Jackson was the one making the throws.
“My main priority is to win football games,” Fitzpatrick said. “I rarely, seldom look at my stats. … I handle learning how to win a certain way. That’s just everything I’ve been growing up and I’m going to continue to be like that while I’m a football player with the Titans.”
When Tennessee selected him in the fourth round (109th overall), he became just the second Louisville player at a skill position since Jackson to be drafted. The first was another wide receiver, Tutu Atwell, who went to the L.A. Rams in the second round of this year’s draft.
In between, there were four others at different positions drafted out of Louisville, including a pair of first-rounders, , and Fitzpatrick has done his best to learn what he can from each of them.
“A lot of my friends are in the NFL,” he said. “I just continue asking them questions. You know, the more you soak up from players doing it before you, the more I feel like you can be successful because you have almost like a head start.
“So, I will always use my friends in the NFL to my advantage.”
One a little more than the others.