Missouri Military Academy star quarterback's path from adversity to success
MEXICO — Two years ago, the Missouri Military Academy was in district-ftooaball action. However, the team only had 14 players dressed for the game, and was forced to forfeit.
"That was tough all around," MMA Head Coach Mitchell Jenkins said.
The administration decided to not go to districts the following year or in 2016 in order to focus on rebuilding the program through the regular season. Jenkins said the team is doing just that by tallying the school's highest win total since 1989. A big part of that was star quarterback Sean Fitzgerald.
"Football is my world. I revolve around it. It keeps me going, and i't my drive," Fitzgerald said.
However, Fitzgerald had to go through a rebuild of his own, only much earlier. When he was five-years old, Fitzgerald's father left him and his mother. When he was six, Fitzgerald's mother died from stomach cancer.
"It really destroyed me. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do, how I was going to react, because it seemed like the end of the world."
His aunt, Kay Fitzgerald, was in Mexico caring for her own mother when her sister, Sean's mother, died.
"I was down here, but I lived in Alaska at the time, so I just had to stay," Kay said.
Sean's aunt stayed with him and raised him from that moment on.
"I remember the first night she was here she stayed in my room upstairs with me, and she just talked to me about how no matter what whatever I need all I need to do is ask," Sean said.
The two are close and now say they wouldn't know how to go through life without each other.
"He's the love of my life he really is," Kay said as she choked up.
Sean said he had only his aunt and the sport he loves, football. Coaches, players and his aunt all say football was a big piece in making Sean who he is today.
"He could be a statistic easily, but instead he just has that inner fire about him to be the best at whatever he tries, and I think Kay and athletics had a lot to do with that," Jenkins said.
MMA Wide Receiver Francisco Fletus said, "It just makes you proud to see how far he's come, like all the adversity he's faces he's been able to rise above it and overcome it."
Sean has also risen above just about every benchmark put in front of him by the MMA coaching staff. He tallied over 1,200 yards in just nine games in the 2016 season becoming the school's first thousand-yard rusher. On top of that, he didn't lose sight of what really mattered along the way.
Jenkins said. "There was a moment he was out doing service work, and the little boy he was talking to says, 'Well my dad is in jail." Sean then just goes, "That's ok buddy my dad is in jail too don't worry."
In addition to football, Sean Fitzgerald is involved with a variety of volunteer work, plays on the lacrosse team and basketball team and is in the school band. His coach calls him the complete package.
Jenkins said, "We'll be looking at film in my living room. We're trying to break something down or I'm like watch the safety here....look back and he's got a tea cup in his hand and a Disney princess in the other playing with my ten-month old, and that's because he had to. That's just the kid he is."
Although Kay, Sean and football have been a tight-knit trio for years now, time is running out before Sean heads off to college in 2017.
"He asks where I'm going to live and I go where are you going to go and he's like...No you can't do that," Kay said with a laugh.
Sean plans to play football and study physical therapy in college and says he still is figuring out what school he plans to go to.
However, even with that uncertainty, Sean knows he'll have football and his aunt, but those won't be the only things anymore.
"He's ready," Kay said sniffling, "He's ready."