GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida Head Football Coach Billy Napier announced Saturday the addition of Craig Fitzgerald to the staff as the Gators’ new director of football performance.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Craig and his family—his wife, Mary, and sons, Mac, Joe and Luke, to Gainesville and to the UF community,” Napier said. “We’re very excited to add coach Fitz to our team. He brings a significant level of experience in both college and the NFL. He will help each player on our team reach their potential. His reputation precedes itself and we are excited about the leadership he will bring and the impact he will have on our entire organization.”
“I’m extremely excited to join coach Napier and his staff, and to be part of Gator Nation,” Fitzgerald said. “I look forward to being part of such a storied program and can’t wait to get to work.”
A veteran of more than 25 years of experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Fitzgerald has led strength and performance departments at several SEC institutions, and two NFL teams. His tenure in the NFL stretches across eight years of combined experience. He was also instrumental in revamping strength and conditioning regimens at Penn State, South Carolina and Tennessee to make players bigger, faster, stronger, and more explosive.
Fitzgerald joins the Gators after spending four seasons with the New York Giants. During his first year in New York, Fitzgerald’s thorough and consistent analysis and customized training regiments led to the largest reduction of football injuries from the previous season in the NFL in 2020. His approach to prioritize injury prevention, helped the Giants finish second in NFC East that season.
Fitzgerald joined the Giants after a two-year stint at the University of Tennessee, where he served as the director of football sports performance. In 2019, the Volunteers improved from 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the Southeastern Conference to 8-5 – including a Gator Bowl victory against Indiana – and 5-3 in the conference.
In his first season with the program in 2018, Fitzgerald’s strength program helped the Vols to two upset victories over ranked opponents Auburn and Kentucky.
Prior to his tenure in Knoxville, Fitzgerald was the head strength and conditioning coach of the Houston Texans from 2014-17. He helped Houston win back-to-back AFC South division championships in 2015 and 2016, while putting together three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history (2014-16).
In Fitzgerald’s first year in Houston, the Texans led the NFL with a seven-win improvement and became the sixth NFL team since 1978 to post a winning record following a season in which it won two games or less.
Prior to Houston, Fitzgerald was the leading football strength and conditioning coach at Penn State (2012-13). He revamped Penn State’s training and workout facilities and developed the popular “Iron Lion” T-shirt, which directed proceeds from sales of the shirt to PSU’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes, a non-profit organization that raises money and awareness for rare diseases.
His term at Penn State followed three successful seasons (2009-11) working with Gators Legend Steve Spurrier at the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks won a school-record 11 games and finished in the Associated Press Top 10 for the first time in school history in his final season.
Fitzgerald was the director of strength and conditioning at Harvard from 2005-09, overseeing 41 varsity sports, including the football team that won Ivy League championships in 2007 and 2008. From 2000-05, he served as an assistant director of strength and conditioning at the University of Maryland, his alma mater. Fitzgerald was the first director of strength and conditioning at Catholic University from 1997-99, when he was also was the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.
Fitzgerald holds the highest honor awarded in his profession, the certification of Master Strength and Conditioning Coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa). He is also certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
He was a three-year letterwinner and starting tight end for the Terrapins from 1994-96 after beginning his career as a walk-on.
Fitzgerald and his wife, Mary, have three sons: Mac, Joe and Luke.
2020-23: New York Giants (Director of Strength and Performance)
2018-19: University of Tennessee (Director of Football Sports Performance)
2014-17: Houston Texans (Strength and Conditioning)
2012-13: Penn State University (Director of Strength and Conditioning)
2009-11: University of South Carolina (Director of Strength and Conditioning)
2005-09: Harvard University (Director of Strength and Conditioning)
2000-05: University of Maryland (Asst. Director of Strength and Conditioning)
1999: Arizona State University (Graduate Assistant Strength/Conditioning)
1997-99: Catholic University (Director of Strength and Conditioning)
What They’re Saying About Fitzgerald:
Saquon Barkley, Dec. 27, 2023, NYDailyNews (NY Giants)
“…Florida’s getting a really good one. A really good strength coach, a really good coach, someone you can talk to, a great man. And it sucks to see him go but at the same time, happy for him.”
“For me personally, it’s how he’s been able to develop with me,” Barkley said, “knowing how I am in the weight room and I want to go heavy and push the limits, but also now at a point in my career being more understanding and listening to my body.”
“That’s what makes a really good strength coach,” Barkley added. “Obviously you gotta create a program to get your players out there to be successful and stay healthy. But I think listening to your players’ body and knowing what workload they need and knowing when it’s time to push it and also when it’s time to de-load and give your body a break. I feel like he’s been really great at doing that and developing programs.”
Dexter Lawrence, Dec. 27, 2023, NYDailyNews (NY Giants)
“I think he does a good job working with the big guys,” Lawrence said. “Like the D-linemen, he helps us work on our joints, around the nicks and bruises that I would get throughout the game, all of it relative to being on the field and the things we need to stay healthy the most as defensive linemen.”
Johnathan Joseph, 2018, Chron., (Houston Texans)
“Fitz is the real deal. Best strength coach I’ve had since being in the NFL. Cares about his player and tailors his workouts to the player. Also keeps you strong and durable throughout the whole year because of his strength and conditioning program.”
Bill O’Brien, 2013, MensHealth.com, (Former PSU, Texans HC)
“[He] knows how to make guys better. He’s got that ability to teach and challenge guys, to connect with them about things off the field. He has great knowledge of strength training, Olympic lifting, conditioning, speed, and quickness. His program has made our guys stronger, sure, but it’s also made them better football players.”
Steve Spurrier, 2009, GamecocksOnline.com, (Former Gators, South Carolina HC)
“… I was really impressed with him and how he motivates the players.”