Wyomissing head coach Bob Wolfrum sent out his offensive unit for a fourth-and-goal opportunity from the 4-yard line in December and as his squad faced a 7-0 deficit, it made sense.
Through almost four quarters of play on a rainy, foggy day at Hersheypark Stadium, he needed a touchdown to notch the score at seven and fight for a chance at taking the lead in the PIAA Class-3A championship game. Wyomissing hadn’t lost a game since the state title game a year prior. A loss to Central Valley out of Monaca, Pa.
Wyomissing desperately wanted a state title, but Pitt commit Sean and Central Valley star FitzSimmons wanted it just a little bit more.
As now-Penn State commit Jven Williams pulled across the line in the attempt to open a running lane on the most important play of the state championship game, FitzSimmons shot off the line and barrelled through the defensive line to smack the Wyomissing running back in the backfield and knock the ball free.
FitzSimmons saw Williams pulling, read the situation and executed his read to beat Williams off the line, knock the ball out of Wyomissing running back Benjamin Zechman’s hands and all but secure a second consecutive state title for Central Valley.
In leading Central Valley to a third consecutive WPIAL title and second consecutive state title, FitzSimmons absolutely dominated opponents to the tune of 123 tackles (58 solo), 49 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, five forced fumbles and a recovery. And he led the way on the offensive line to help Landon Alexander become one of the best running backs in the WPIAL.
FitzSimmons committed to Pitt early, pledging himself as Pitt’s first 2022 commit last April, and he’s already been reassured that his commitment was the correct call. FitzSimmons said he loves being at Pitt, but he’s known all along that Pitt was it.
“Well, obviously, I’m real close to home being here,” FitzSimmons said. “Even when they first offered me back in October, I kinda knew this was one of my top schools without a question. And then just going through the process, I just knew Pitt was it.”
Even in the short time he’s spent at Pitt as an early enrollee this year, FitzSimmons has seen firsthand how defensive line coach Charlie Partridge is one of, if not the best, defensive line coaches in college football. When combined with the ability to stay close to him, it made Pitt the perfect fit for FitzSimmons.
Partridge has been an instrumental piece in developing Pitt’s defensive line room into one of the best in the nation, and FitzSimmons has been working closely with the veterans on the team already. He’s been learning Pitt’s defensive system and working on building his body in the weight room. He’s been slotted as a defensive tackle at Pitt, but he said he could slide to the outside if needed.
“(The defensive linemen) teach me so much,” FitzSimmons said. “Just getting my technique down, helping me with plays and all that because this playbook, it’s definitely way harder to understand than back at Central Valley. They’ve all just helped me get my technique, lifting and getting everything settled.”
Of course, FitzSimmons is only just getting started at Pitt, but he’s been learning from a former Pitt star for years in the form of Super Bowl champion Aaron Donald.
“(Donald’s) always dominated when he’s played,” FitzSimmons said. “Him being from Pittsburgh and going here was just awesome to see. Just won a Super Bowl, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, so it was just real special seeing him grow up. I learned a lot from just watching his film and all that.”
In watching Donald at Pitt and eventually with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL, FitzSimmons has just tried to emulate the way that he’s played and structure his own style of play based on Donald’s.
And perhaps best of all, FitzSimmons, along with guys like Dayon Hayes, Nahki Johnson, Dorien Ford and Donald’s own cousin Elliot, is continuing the trend of Pittsburgh kids sticking around at Pitt.
“It’s special to have Pittsburgh guys coming to Pitt,” FitzSimmons said. “You always want the hometown guys to come here, and I think it’s special with all of us being in the same room too. It’s just great to have Pittsburgh guys here.”