This Steelers Star Was College Role Model For Patriots’ Mac Jones

'He was the epitome of just a great football player and person'


Sep 15, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — When Mac Jones was an Alabama freshman in 2017, he looked up to a certain versatile defensive back.

This Sunday, he’ll face Minkah Fitzpatrick on an NFL field for the first time.

Fitzpatrick was a consensus All-American and two-time national champion for the Crimson Tide, overlapping with Jones for one season before becoming the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. After starting his career with the Miami Dolphins, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 and since has blossomed into one of the NFL’s best safeties.

Jones has fond memories of their time together in Tuscaloosa.

“He was the epitome of just a great football player and person,” the Patriots quarterback said Wednesday as New England prepared for its Week 2 matchup in Pittsburgh. “I looked up to him a lot at Alabama, and he was a great team captain and leader on our team. Obviously, he’s done great things with the Steelers. You’ve just got to know where he’s at.

“He’s a great player. He makes really good plays and obviously, off the field, he’s an even better person. That was something that I learned from him. Super easygoing, just really easy to talk to, friendly with everybody. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Fitzpatrick was far from friendly on the field in the Steelers’ Week 1 upset of the Cincinnati Bengals, racking up 14 tackles and a pick-six to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He also blocked a Bengals extra point in the final seconds to force overtime, allowing Pittsburgh to pull out a 23-20 win.

Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole forced five turnovers and sacked Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow seven times. Scoring points against that group will be a challenge for New England, even with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle.

That challenge would be amplified tenfold if the Patriots don’t have Jones behind center. The second-year signal-caller suffered a back injury in last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins and then missed Thursday’s practice with a non-COVID-related illness, putting his status for Sunday in question.

Thumbnail photo via Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports Images
NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
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