Pat Fitzgerald will always be remembered for his time at Northwestern than with the Dallas Cowboys. But before he embarked on a career in coaching, he was a player.
He was a celebrated linebacker for Northwestern and achieved great success with the team. Having played for them from 1993 to 1996, his final two years brought him unparalleled success. He won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award in 1995 and 1996. Due to his performances in those years, he was also selected as a Consensus All-American and Big Ten Defensive player of the Year in consecutive seasons. He also took the Jack Lambert Trophy in 1996.
His performances as a college football player was not enough for him to get drafted into the NFL. However, the Dallas Cowboys did sign him as a free agent. He took the opportunity and played in two pre-season games for the NFL franchise but was let go before the regular season.
That would prove to be the end of his pro football career as he then moved into coaching in college football.
Pat Fitzgerald’s net worth of $20 million comes from his coaching career
Even though a career in pro football did not work out, he became a successful coach over a span of two-and-a-half decades. He accumulated a net worth of around $20 million. His latest contract at Northwestern was reportedly upwards of $5.5 million.
His coaching career began in 1998 in Maryland as a graduate assistant before moving the next year to Colorado. In 2000, he secured his first senior job as a linbackers coach at Idaho. By 2001, he was back at Northwestern becoming the Defensive Backs coach and later the Linebackers coach. He became the head coach of the program in 2006.
“The head coach is ultimately responsible for the culture of his team. The hazing we investigated was widespread and clearly not a secret within the program, providing Coach Fitzgerald with the opportunity to learn what was happening. Either way, the culture in Northwestern Football, while incredible in some ways, was broken in others.”
The investigation said that it “did not uncover evidence pointing to specific misconduct by any individual football player or coach” but added that “participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread across football players.” Pat Fitzgerald denied any knowledge of such activities and was supported by the team in his stance.
But the reasoning his former employers took was that he should have known as the head coach. He leaves as the winningest coach in the program’s history.