Think back to when you were in your college lecture hall. How did you spend it? On your phone, playing games on your laptop, or my personal favorite, counting down the minutes until it was over (ok, there’s 40 minutes left, that’s two sets of 20, four sets of 10. You. Can. Do. This).
If you were actually a good student, you took notes. So give Minkah Fitzpatrick an A+. According to TJ Watt, no one jots things down as much as he does. He sat down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews to in part, discuss Fitzpatrick’s studious attitude.
“He just writes stuff down,” Watt said. “I think some guys learn differently. That’s part of the NFL is trying to find out how each guy learns. He just seems to be a sponge and writes everything down to remember it. I like to take notes but this guy takes a ton of notes. Sometimes, he’s like, ‘I’m just writing the date, chill’ because I say so many snarky comments to him. It’s fun. He makes me want to take more notes too because I’m next to him. And I’m like, man, I should probably pay more attention.”
Athletic ability is great, and both guys clearly have it, but it only gets you so far in the NFL where everyone was their high school’s greatest athlete. To be elite at this level, you have to be as strong above the neck as you are below it. Fitzpatrick’s IQ is off the charts, his five interceptions indicate that, thanks to his film study. But it’s not just the splash plays. It’s the smaller ones that don’t quite capture the box score the same. Take these two plays defending the read option late in the season, taking down Kyler Murray and Josh Allen in the open field.
Minkah Fitzpatrick has done a great job defending QB mobility defense has faced in Murray and Allen last two weeks. Recognition + closing speed on read/option plays in the red zone. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/GE1ceUTevj
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 18, 2019
Expect Watt to have his notebook handy even during the offseason. He told Matthews he plans on doing extensive film study of the season, breaking down his pass rushes, run defense, and specific matchups to have an even better 2020 than 2019. Based on his ’19 production, with 14.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, you know the numbers, that doesn’t seem possible. But the sky is the limit for anyone with the last name “Watt” and he’s already proven to be one of the league’s premier defenders.