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Nick Fitzgerald Going Home for the Heisman?

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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A memorable performance in his own backyard could move Nick Fitzgerald to the top of the national narrative.

I'm from Georgia, I grew up watching them play. Had family members that played there, family members that graduated from UGA.
~Nick Fitzgerald

An early-season game in Athens will be a full-circle trip for Georgia-native Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State's star quarterback who had a dynamic prep career for Richmond Hill HIgh School just south of Savannah on the state's coast. Fitzgerald, with 49 touchdowns in 15 games atop the depth chart, has since developed into one of college football's top quarterbacks. Saturday night, Fitzgerald will lead his nationally-ranked Bulldogs into a primetime clash that has the potential to prove poignant for both he and his team.

Not far from where Fitzgerald's football career began, it may be poised for a prominent next step. He was recently named the Maxwell Award National Player of the Week and the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week after four total scores in a 30-point thrashing of SEC power LSU, a showcase which made Fitzgerald part of early Heisman Trophy conversations. A memorable performance in his own backyard could, fittingly, move Fitzgerald to the top of the national narrative.

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Fitzgerald is more than just a Georgia boy; he grew up attending games "between the hedges" and he lists his favorite athlete as former UGA quarterback David Greene. Even more, Fitzgerald's uncle, Charles Pledger, was a cornerback for the Bulldogs in the early 1990s.The last football game Fitzgerald played in the Peach State was also a big one; just the second time his Wildcats had ever been in the postseason past the opening round.

Statistically, Fitzgerald already fits the Heisman profile. His team, up to 17th in the polls, has a growing brand. What Fitzgerald needs is a spotlight for his signature story, a tale that already has a captivating start. Sanford Stadium, where Fitzgerald first met college football, just might be his formal introduction.

"I'm from Georgia, I grew up watching them play. Had family members that played there, family members that graduated from UGA," he explained in the summer. "I'm just looking at it as another game that we have to win. I will probably have a few more of my family members in the stands compared to the rest of them."

Should Fitzgerald play well, it wouldn't be the first time a local Mississippi State star came back and made a big impression. In the last meeting between the two programs, Brunswick-native Darius Slay, from roughly 45 miles south of where Fitzgerald is from, returned an interception 72 yards for the visiting Bulldogs' only touchdown. This weekend, Fitzgerald will get his chance.

The talking points are already in place for Fitzgerald and a spotlight game with Georgia could serve as his exclamation point. Few players get to make a run at the Heisman Trophy; Fitzgerald could get his footing in a high-profile return to his home state.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports