Loyola’s Ryan Fitzgerald commits to Iowa as preferred walk-on

Fitzgerald helped Ramblers win second straight state title in fall

Loyola’s Ryan Fitzgerald runs to outside against Lincoln-Way East in the Class 8A championship on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023 at Hancock Stadium in Normal.

There was never a doubt Ryan Fitzgerald would commit to Iowa if he ever got the chance.

Fitzgerald, a junior quarterback at Loyola, fell in love with the school during two visits over the past year. His family believed in Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, all Fitzgerald needed was for Ferentz to believe in him.

That belief came when Iowa offered on May 9. Fitzgerald made it official with his commitment Friday as a preferred walk-on.

“There’s no person I’d rather play for,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s no team, program I’d rather be a part of then the Hawkeyes.”

That love first kindled in the fall when Fitzgerald joined teammate Drew MacPherson for a game day visit. Fitzgerald was impressed with the environment around the game and how much the fans cared about the program.

His relationship with Iowa became stronger in February when he visited for the Hawkeyes’ junior day. Fitzgerald met Iowa’s new offensive coordinator Tim Lester and built a strong relationship as they talked for about an hour about football

Lester came to Loyola to watch Fitzgerald throw three weeks ago and then Iowa offered on May 9.

Fitzgerald held scholarship offers from schools like Ball State, North Dakota State and Bowling Green. But he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play Big Ten football.

“Once I got that offer, this is what I wanted to do,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald connected with Iowa after his family had a strong belief in Ferentz and his staff. His father Pat Fitzgerald, who was the former Northwestern coach before he was fired last summer, competed against Ferentz for many years and built a strong relationship with him.

“There’s no person I’d rather play for. There’s no team, program I’d rather be a part of then the Hawkeyes.”

—  Ryan Fitzgerald, Loyola junior quarterback

The Hawkeyes already have a quarterback commitment in the Class of 2025 from Indiana’s Jimmy Sullivan. Although Sullivan committed to Iowa before Lester took over, Lester told Fitzgerald he wanted to honor that commitment and offer Fitzgerald a spot as a walk-on since he liked what both quarterbacks could do.

Ryan Fitzgerald understood that some might wonder why he’d take a walk-on spot in May instead of waiting to see if he could earn a scholarship from another Power Four program. But Iowa offered him everything he wanted in a program.

“This is what I want to do,” Ryan Fitzgerald said. “If another school comes by to offer me a scholarship, I know I won’t take it. This is where I want to be and these are the coaches I want to play for.”

247Sports lists Ryan Fitzgerald as a three-star quarterback prospect, the 24th-best overall prospect in Illinois Class of 2025. Ryan Fitzgerald is coming off an impressive first season as a starter for the Ramblers.

He threw for 2,056 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just one interception, on top of 634 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Ryan Fitzgerald earned the CCL/ESCC Blue’s Offensive Player of the Year award and helped Loyola win its second straight state championship.

Loyola coach Beau Desherow thought Iowa was a great fit for Ryan Fitzgerald. Desherow thought his first-year starter did a good job of managing the offense and didn’t cause mistakes, something that’s essential to Iowa’s run-heavy offense.

“I think it’s a great fit for him,” Desherow said. “I know he wants to prove himself, that he can compete and win at that level.”

With his commitment out of the way, Ryan Fitzgerald is looking forward to senior season. He’s taken more of a leadership role over the offseason and is excited to get to work on a third straight state title.

“It’s really fun, really exciting,” Ryan Fitzgerald said. “I think our team is going to be really good.”