Inside the mind of Joey Fitzgerald as his career comes to an end

by Trenton Gafner

How did missing a year due to COVID Impact your decision to come back for a 5th year? 

 “Getting an extra year of eligibility definitely played a part in my decision. I also took the fall semester of 2020 off of school and lacrosse to join the Air National Guard. After missing an entire season of spring lacrosse, as well as a season of fall ball, I knew I wanted to come back. Especially after our season ended with us just outside the top 8 last year, I was eager to get back to work this year.”


Most memorable lacrosse experience? 

 “Definitely playing in the National Championship Tournament which we were fortunate enough to host at Aquinas. Having never qualified before in our programs history, and being able to avenge our in conference losses in route to the championship game was a crazy experience. Playing it on our home field just made it even more special.” 


Most memorable experiences off the field at Aquinas? 

 “Our team camping trip is something I am going to miss a lot. We go up to Manistee just out in the wilderness and camp out for the weekend with the whole team. Being right on Lake Michigan surrounded by the wilderness, it's just beautiful up there. Also being in Grand Rapids, we also have a lot of entertainment around. Another favorite memory was going with my team to watch Professional Bull Riding this year” 


How has it been balancing being a student athlete, and also being in the military? 

 “It's definitely increased my communication skills a ton. Also hectic but I've been able to make it work. My professors, coaches and supervisors all played a part in enabling me to do everything successfully. When I first made my decision to enlist, I talked to my coaches about coming back after my initial training and they helped me out a ton with talking to the school and getting everything setup for me for when I got back. When I returned back to AQ in January of 2020, I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. and help do security for the Presidential Inauguration. I was at a team meeting when I got the text that I was going and my coaches and the school really helped me out with notifying my professors and such. My supervisors on base also know I'm a collegiate athlete so they’ve been extremely good about excusing me from days when I have games. I have had a few games where I've left from base, played, and went right back afterwards which is always a fun experience. But it's definitely kept me busy and I've had the opportunity to do some pretty amazing things. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.” 


What do you wish you had started doing earlier to benefit your career more?

 “Taking things more seriously in the weight room sooner. I never was a fan of lifting in high school and that's my advice to anyone thinking about playing college lacrosse, put as much work in the weight room as you do with on the field practice.” 


What are your plans for after you graduate this year? 

 “I am planning on attending the police academy back on the east side of the state. I originally was planning on becoming a teacher and was a Learning Disabilities Major, Secondary Ed Major and a Teaching Math Minor. But, after my experiences in the Guard, I realized I wanted to do Law Enforcement. I still do and will hopefully continue to substitute teach when I can.”


How do you feel about your collegiate career coming to an end? 

 “To be honest it really hasn’t hit me yet. I've been playing since the 6th grade so for about the past 12 years. To think that something I've been doing for more than half my life is partially coming to an end is wild. I plan on finding a coaching job if I can to help to continue to grow and give back to the game. But yeah there’ll definitely be a lot of different emotions come my final whistle.” 

Photo: Kristi Fitzgerald Photography

Thanks Joey and good luck the rest of the season!