Fitzhugh returns a champion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 31, 2008

AHOSKIE – Troy Fitzhugh Jr. returned a champion.

The 2008 Hertford County High School graduate spent two weeks playing football in Australia earlier this summer and was on the team that won the American Football Championship in the country Down Under.

Fitzhugh said the opportunity was one he was grateful for and encouraged others to take advantage of their chances.

“If you get an opportunity to do anything large, take advantage of it,” he said.

The HCHS grad left June 17 and after one day of practice played the first game in the two-game series.

“The first day we arrived, we had an off day and had the opportunity to just explore,” Fitzhugh said. “The second day we began practice on a rugby field.”

The team, called the California Jerseys, practiced in the morning and then had an afternoon free to tour the Gold Coast of Australia.

When day three rolled around, the Jerseys were on the field and Fitzhugh wasted no time getting his hands on the football. He received the opening kickoff and returned the ball 20 yards.

After a few plays off the field, he had a five-yard carry during his time as a running back.

Defensively, Fitzhugh was on the field for most of the 26-0 victory.

“I started at nose guard and was always in the backfield,” he said. “They used me to shoot up in the hole, get to the quarterback and generally cause disruption.”

Fitzhugh played most of the snaps on defense at either nose guard or defensive end. He had one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

After the victory, the Jerseys had their second practice, this one on the beach.

“Practicing at the beach sounds like fun,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s not at all. It was probably the hardest practice I’ve ever experienced.”

The sand was thick, he said, and the players feet sank in the heavy silt when they tried to run. He credited his coaching staff with diversifying the practice to make it the most beneficial.

Following the practice, the team was allowed to stay at the beach, but Fitzhugh said it is winter in Australia and the water was cold.

Following the beach practice, the California Jerseys rolled to a 26-2 victory in the championship game.

Fitzhugh again played on defense, offense and special teams. He had one carry for two yards during the game and played most of the game on defense.

California scored on the first drive, but the game turned into a defensive struggle after that, he said. After the opponents got as close as 7-2, the Jersey’s scored nearly every drive the rest of the game to take the win.

During the contest, Fitzhugh had three sacks, one tackle and one assist.

Fitzhugh, who was accompanied on the trip by his father, Troy Sr., said he appreciated how much the Australians enjoyed American football.

“Everyone loved American football because they haven’t seen it,” he said. “They asked us if we were professionals.”

Fitzhugh raised more than $3000 from the community for his trip and said he appreciated the help everyone gave.

“I appreciate everything the community did to help me,” he said.

The trip also provided a high level of football for Fitzhugh.

“It was good football,” he said. “I thought the other players were the best of the best from where they came from.”

After the championship game, Fitzhugh spent two days in Hawaii as part of his trip. He said he enjoyed those two days, especially the fruit.

Fitzhugh and his teammates also enjoyed the street performers, especially a mime with whom he had a dancing contest.

“We connected with the street performers,” he said. “We connected so much we gave the mime money every day from the time we got there until we left.”