Will Fitzhugh’s allegiance to the Ouachita Christian football program runs deep, though it wasn’t necessarily by choice. By the time he was born in 2001, Will had already attended an entire season’s worth of games.
“My mom was pregnant with me when we went to the Superdome,” Will Fitzhugh said.
Actually, Janna Fitzhugh was deep into her pregnancy.
Steven Fitzhugh, Janna’s father and Will’s dad, remembers the day vividly. OCS went on to win the first of its four state championships during his tenure as head coach.
“Janna was eight months pregnant in the Superdome in 2000,” Fitzhugh said, unable to suppress a laugh. “Will has lived OCS football his whole life. He eats it up.”
As soon as Will could walk, he naturally tagged along with his father and older brother, Grant, to the school.
By the time Will was old enough to start school, coach Fitzhugh knew he had a football player on his hands.
“I kind of keep my composure after losing a tough ballgame,” coach Fitzhugh said. “In 2007, we lost some heartbreakers. Will was 6, and he would come up to me after the game shaking and squalling. He was not the kind of kid who played pickup games outside the stadium. He would sit there and watch the game. He has always put his heart into it, whether he’s watching or playing.”
Continuing his progression, Will Fitzhugh worked his way through the ranks as a ball boy and eventually to an All-State defensive back.
“I was a ball boy starting in the second or third grade, and went to the ’Dome a couple of times,” Will Fitzhugh recalled. “Then I finally started getting to play. I’m a senior now, and soaking up every minute of it.”
As a freshman, Will joined his brother in the starting lineup.
“Grant was the quarterback, I was the wide receiver,” Will recalled.
Will Fitzhugh’s role quickly expanded. Over the past four years, he has also played running back, free safety and returned kicks.
“Will has done it all for us,” coach Fitzhugh said. “It’s been fun watching him compete. He’s willing to do whatever it takes whether it’s running back, receiver, defensive back or special teams. He doesn’t get many breaks during a ballgame, and he doesn’t want many.”
As a father, Coach Fitzhugh has enjoyed watching Will’s growth as a person even more than as a football player.
“He’s a good teammate,” coach Fitzhugh said. “He encourages his teammates and shows enthusiasm.”
In case anyone has the idea that coach Fitzhugh sounds more like a father bragging on his son than a football coach, a quick look at the OCS record book will prove otherwise.
A dynamic return specialist, Will Fitzhugh holds school records for kickoff return yards (1,345) and kickoff returns (50), and ranks ninth in punt return yardage (262).
He ranks second in all-purpose yards with 6,394, trailing Jermaine Sharp by 181 yards.
He is also second on the school’s all-time list in total points (448) and touchdowns (73); third in touchdown receptions (24); fourth in rushing yards (2,971) and rushing TDs (46);10th in receiving yards (1,750); and 11th in receptions (97).
Will has been pretty good on the defensive side, too. His 13 interceptions are the third-most in school history. He is also fourth in unassisted tackles with 183 (Grant is No. 4 with 296), and ninth in total tackles (264).
When asked about his favorite individual accomplishment, Will Fitzhugh reflected on his record-setting performance in a 56-42 victory against eventual Class 1A state semifinalist Delhi last season. He set the school’s single-game standards for rushing yardage (352 yards on 39 carries) and touchdowns with seven (6 rushing, 1 receiving).
“As far as individually, that was a cool night,” Will Fitzhugh said.
His season stat line includes 60 carries for 586 yards, 11 TDs; 20 receptions for 389 yards, 8 TDs; 43 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions; 14 kickoff returns for a 29.6-yard average; and 3 punt returns for a 22.3-yard average.
For Will, the best part about his high school football career has been the time spent with his father.
“It’s cool to have my dad out there with me,” Will said. “He understands that being a dad is more important than being a coach. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Will timed his senior season perfectly as he was able to share in two special events with his dad. During halftime of the Eagles’ 49-14 Week 1 victory over Arcadia, the school’s new turf field was named in Steven Fitzhugh’s honor.
Eight weeks later on Senior Night, Steven Fitzhugh reached a milestone with his 200th career victory as the Eagles blanked St. Frederick 41-0.
“Senior Night was special because of the way we did it,” Will Fitzhugh said. “To come out and win 41-0 against a respectable team was just awesome. There were a lot of emotions when they gave him the plaque for his 200th win after the game. It’s so good to have my dad as a coach.”
It’s been a big year for the team as well. Winners of eight straight, the Eagles carry a 9-1 record into Friday night’s first round home playoff game against Sacred Heart.
“We’re clicking right now,” Will Fitzhugh said. “Every week our goal is to get better, regardless of who we play.”
Will’s classroom credentials are as impressive as his football achievements. A 4.0 student, he plans to join Grant on the Harding University football team next season. Will is undecided on his career path, though he hasn’t ruled out coaching.
Will, of course, is in no hurry to leave OCS.
“We haven’t practiced on Thanksgiving since 2014,” Will Fitzhugh said. “The playoffs are the most exciting time of the year, but it’s about so much more than winning football games. It’s about being able to be around the guys for a couple of more weeks, and a chance for us to spend more time together.”
If Will Fitzhugh has his way, the Eagles will be together for four more games.