Who's the early candidate for Wildcat Newcomer of the Year?
It just could be Jeffrey Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive tackle/end, who arrived at Kansas State via the University of Virginia.
"Things just didn't work out," Fitzgerald said of his transfer from the Cavaliers last year. "I knew there was a good coach here in coach (Ron) Prince, who had stayed in contact with the (Virginia) coaches. That's how I got here.
"I anticipated playing for coach Prince. I was shocked at first, but it just didn't work out that way," Fitzgerald said. "You adapt to the situation, and now I'm playing for a legend in coach (Bill) Snyder."
Fitzgerald arrived with just one year to play as he redshirted the 2005 season at Virginia, before starting 12 games in 2006, 13 more in 2007, and then sat out the 2008 season after transferring.
"It was a long year not being able to help," said Fitzgerald, who also spent the season rehabbing after "several" minor knee surgeries. "I saw the game from a different perspective. I saw what the coaches see. I think it helped me grow as a player."
The Richmond, Va., native played defensive end and tight end for Mermitage High School. Scout.com ranked him as the 41st best defensive end in the country and he was ranked 28th best by CollegeFootballNews.com.
He was a unanimous freshman All-American at Virginia, plus the recipient of the Bill Dudley Award as Virginia's most outstanding first-year player. He topped the team with his six sacks and shared the team lead with 12 tackles for losses.
Starting 13 games as a sophomore, Fitzgerald was third on the team with 73 tackles, and second in tackles for loss with 11.5, which included 7.0 sacks.
Fitzgerald has played both the tackle and defensive end spots, and is open to both in 2009 as a Wildcat in this, his senior year.
"This is my last chance to prove myself. I want what's best for the team," Fitzgerald said. "I moved around in the 3-4 scheme, but haven't played a true 4-3 since high school.
"If they need me as a third-down rusher, that's fine; if they need me on a more consistent basis on first- and second-downs, that's fine," he said. "I just want to help the team."
As for understanding the impact Snyder had on K-State's program, Fitzgerald gave a candid response, "Not totally. I just know he has a great reputation. I understand the respect he's earned and demands. I'm looking forward to playing for him. I just want to go out and give it everything I have."
After starting 25 games at Virginia, Jeffrey Fitzgerald is now a Kansas State Wildcat and chomping at the bit to play in his final collegiate season in 2009.