Editor’s note: This is the first article in Got Game, a column LeipGlo is launching highlighting sports players in the Leipzig area. If you know of any players with compelling stories you’d like to see featured – preferably having to do with travel, living abroad, moving to Leipzig from another home country, or running a campaign or community project – please send us the info at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Got Game.
As I look out from my dorm window almost every weekend, the first thing that instantly catches my attention is the mix of yellow and blue colours skillfully moving about, accompanied by the sound of a whistle. Yes, it’s American football season, and the Leipzig Lions are the “big fish” in the Leipzig pond.
If you look closer, you can see a bunch of young men giving their all to achieve the highest scores possible. Patrick Fitzgerald is one of them: wearing the number one on his jersey means a lot to him.
Playing is a vital part of his life, just like oxygen; he simply cannot imagine his life without it.
Born in Waynesville, North Carolina, Patrick was used to being around people dedicated to American football as he grew up. He first crossed paths with football when he was only 12, and it stayed an inseparable part of his life from middle school, through high school and college.
“My father played football in college and my two years’ older brother played football throughout school as well,” Pat says. He admits that his father’s devotion to playing was what inspired him to become a player himself.
Sadly, his father passed away when Pat was only 14, which was an unimaginable loss for him and his family: “After that loss, football was the only thing that kept me on the right track; my football family was the only family I had.”
This year represents Pat’s fourth year playing in Europe. After finishing college, he flew directly to Germany and started playing for the Tollense Sharks from Neubrandenburg. He played for the team for two years and then took a break, but already in the meantime started discussing playing for the Leipzig Lions.
Now in his second year with the Lions, Pat is about to take a huge step in his football career: His hard work has paid off, and he has been given the chance to play in the World Games 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland.
“The games are like the Olympics for all non-Olympic sports. It’s held every four years like the Olympics but the year after them,” he explains.
Patrick then goes on to tell me the story of American football being in the World Games only once before, in 2013, and the United States not getting the chance to have their own team representing them. This year, Pat will stand proudly among the pioneers of the U.S. Federation Men’s National Team.
It has always been my dream to play at the highest possible level. Growing up as a kid playing football in America, the ultimate dream is to play in the NFL.
Despite playing football in college, Pat admits that he allowed the opportunity to slip through his fingers. Because his career as a professional football player is getting closer and closer to its end, getting this opportunity and jumping on it was a no-brainer.
Being chosen as one of the players to attend camp with the U.S. team and compete for a spot in the World Games (taking place in July) is, of course, a huge success. However, getting the proper equipment is super costly.
“Most of the expenses have been taken care of by sponsors of the team and games,” says Pat. “[But] the players are responsible for bringing a white helmet and a pair of white shoes to play in.”
Buying new gear is not a cheap thing to do, and that’s why Patrick started a fundraiser on GoFundMe.
So, good people of Leipzig (or any place you find yourself in), if you think that a penny or two given to support this nice young man wouldn’t ruin you, please check out the campaign website and help Patrick get one step closer to fulfilling his dream of representing his home country in the World Games this year.
As a wise man once said, all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. And Pat is on the right track, no doubt about that; he just needs a little help to reach the finish line. So why not give him a little push forward? 🙂
Cover shot: Patrick Fitzgerald in action with the Leipzig Lions, doing what he likes best. (Photo by @dekay_media)