Wilmette, Sports

Loyola QB Ryan Fitzgerald is all in on Iowa

Big Ten football runs in the Fitzgerald family, and Ryan Fitzgerald wasn’t looking to change that.

The Loyola Academy quarterback, a rising senior, recently committed as a preferred walk-on to the University of Iowa, a program he knows well from his father Pat Fitzgerald’s time as coach of fellow Big Ten program Northwestern University.

Ryan Fitzgerald said that though he has consistently rooted against Iowa, he has long respected the Hawkeyes program and its longtime coach Kirk Ferentz.

“My dad told me there’s no other coach he’d rather have me play for,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s the guy I wanted to play for if I had the choice.”

Fitzgerald on the run in the Ramblers’ playoff win against York in 2023.

Ryan Fitzgerald met Ferentz years ago and would greet him on the sidelines of Iowa-Northwestern football games. Pat Fitzgerald was head coach of Northwestern for 18 seasons until 2023.

Coach Fitzgerald was a volunteer assistant coach for Loyola Academy in 2023, an undefeated season that ended with a state championship and saw Ryan Fitzgerald compile 2,056 yards passing with 20 touchdowns and just one interception. He rushed for 712 more yards and 14 scores.

Ryan Fitzgerald was named the Chicago Catholic League Blue Offensive Player of the Year, resulting in offers from Iowa and several other programs, such as Temple, Cornell, Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Northern Illinois and Akron.

Other offers may have been more substantial, but a chance to compete with Iowa was too good to pass up, he said.

“Being a preferred walk-on might be difficult but my parents told me that I would have to compete anywhere I go,” Fitzgerald said. “Also a big reason I chose Iowa is because I’d have more of an opportunity to grow and play at a high level.”

The Hawkeyes finished 10-4 last season and won the Big Ten West; however, Iowa’s offense struggled along the way, averaging just 15 points per game — 10.6 in its final eight contests.

Iowa has promised a revamped offensive product under new offensive coordinator Tim Lester, who spent 2023 working as an analyst with the Green Bay Packers. Lester’s addition to the coaching staff was another major plus for Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald celebrating a big play in Loyola’s 2023 win against Mount Carmel.

On Fitzgerald’s first visit to Iowa City he met Lester, who happened to also be on campus for the first time. Lester showed Fitzgerald some offensive systems and plays on an iPad.

“It got me excited,” Fitzgerald said.

Before he gets to Iowa City, Fitzgerald has a year of work ahead of him. He hopes to improve his skillset all-around but specifically how the ball leaves his hand.

And with the Ramblers, Fitzgerald is looking forward to putting in more time with the team. He said recruiting took a lot of time and he hopes to get back with his teammates as they prepare to defend their two consecutive IHSA championships.

When he does head to Iowa, he will do so with familiar company. Classmate Drew Macpherson has also committed to the Hawkeyes. The Ramblers running back, who racked up more than 1,000 total yards and 11 touchdowns in 2023, was recruited to play defense for Iowa.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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