It was reported on Thursday afternoon that Craig Fitzgerald, Tennessee’s strength and conditioning coach in football, would be leaving the Vols to take a job in the NFL. Just an hour or so after that report first surfaced, Fitzgerald confirmed the move on Twitter.
Fitzgerald took to Twitter to thank Vol fans and UT’s coaches for the last two years in Knoxville before confirming that he is returning to the professional ranks to join the New York Giants’ staff.
“I want to thank Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt, Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer, Senior Associate Athletic Director Tyler Johnson, our strength staff, and the many student-athletes who have represented our program since the spring of 2018,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Tennessee is a first-class program and will continue to rise under Coach Pruitt’s and Coach Fulmer’s leadership. We will forever be grateful for our time in Knoxville.
“I will be returning to the NFL and joining the New York Giants. Thank you for everything and go Vols!”
Thank you Vol Nation! pic.twitter.com/2bzuvkbfh8
— Craig Fitzgerald (@UTCoachFitz) March 19, 2020
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has heaped praises upon Fitzgerald and the work he’s done with UT’s strength and conditioning program since he hired him in January of 2018. Fitzgerald was heading into the third and final year of his deal with Tennessee, and he was making $625,000 a year. That was good enough for the third-highest-paid salary for a strength coach in the entire NCAA.
Fitzgerald was pursued heavily by his alma mater, Maryland, last offseason. But instead of returning up north, Fitzgerald elected to stay with the Vols and help Pruitt and the team another year.
Last week, Pruitt implied that a team in the SEC — likely Alabama — came after Fitzgerald this offseason as well after the Tide’s strength coach, Scott Cochran, left Alabama to take an on-field role with the Georgia Bulldogs.
“I think Craig’s a guy that’s in high demand,” Pruitt said after the Vols’ first spring practice on March 10th. “There’s no secret, there’s been several jobs that’s been open across our league in the last couple of weeks, and Craig was the first guy that they called.
“He decided to stay here. He’s in demand because he’s good at what he does.”
Before joining Pruitt and Tennessee, Fitzgerald served as the head strength and conditioning coach with the Houston Texans for four seasons. He also spent two years as Penn State’s head strength and conditioning coach and served as South Carolina’s strength and conditioning coordinator for three seasons prior to that. He was also the director of strength and conditioning at Harvard from 2005-09, overseeing 41 varsity sports.
Tennessee has a number of potential replacements for Fitzgerald already on staff if they want to promote within.
Mike Farrell — UT’s Football Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach — and Byron Jerideau — the Assistant Director of Sports Performance at UT — are two obvious choices to promote from within. Tennessee also has A.J. Artis as an Assistant Director of Sports Performance and Shaquille Wilson on staff in the sports performance department.
Should Tennessee look outside their own ranks, former Vol defensive lineman Corey Miller could be a name to keep an eye on. Miller was hired as Lane Kiffin’s Assistant Football Strength and Conditioning Coach this offseason after serving three seasons on South Carolina’s strength staff.