For FSU’s placekicker, accounting and RMI degrees plus football add up to rewarding experiences
To describe Florida State University’s accounting program, Ryan Fitzgerald uses the two most satisfying words to anyone who has ever attempted a field goal:
“It’s one of the best accounting programs in the United States,” he says.
Fitzgerald, the placekicker on FSU’s undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference championship football team, speaks from experience. He earned undergraduate degrees in accounting and risk management/insurance from the College of Business and now continues his pursuit of an FSU Master of Accounting, or MAcc.
Eligible to still play football next fall, Fitzgerald says he’s on target to graduate next December. He touts his College of Business experiences, making lifelong friends, learning from professors with whom he plans to stay in contact and frequently attending the college’s career-placement events.
“To be able to say that I have those undergraduate degrees and that I'm going to have a master’s degree from Florida State University, it’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.
A native of Coolidge, Ga., Fitzgerald cites his father, Chad Fitzgerald, as inspiration for his interest in accounting. His dad earned an undergraduate degree in accounting and now works as chief financial officer of 1915 South, a furniture retailer based in Thomasville, Ga .
“I always talked to him about going to college to become an accountant,” Fitzgerald said.
The kicker has excelled in the classroom, earning status as a Seminole Scholar and an Atlantic Coast Conference Honor Roll member. He also has spoken softly in class: Professors say you’d never know he was a prime-time player on FSU’s big-time college football team.
Holly Sudano, a senior lecturer and the assistant department chair in the accounting department, points out that when she asked students to introduce themselves during her fall graduate-level professional development class, Fitzgerald didn’t mention that he played on the football team.
“For the longest time, most students in class didn’t know who he was,” Sudano said. “He is very modest.”
“I try to blend in and make friends and be a normal master’s student,” Fitzgerald said. “Sometimes there are conversations about football, which is fine, too, because even if I didn’t play football, I'd still want to talk about football here and there between classes.”
That became a little less easy in early December after the College Football Playoff selection committee denied FSU a shot at the national championship, despite the Seminoles’ undefeated record and 16-6 victory over No. 14-ranked Louisville in the ACC Championship game. It marked the first time an undefeated team and champion of a Power 5 conference hadn’t been selected for the four-team playoff.
“Being undefeated and a Power 5 conference champion is beyond deserving of a chance to win a national championship,” Fitzgerald said. “However, throughout the season and through adversity we have continued to grow closer as a team and continued to win. I’m still looking forward to playing another great team in the Orange Bowl and having the opportunity to finish the season undefeated.”
He envisions a fulfilling future.
Fitzgerald’s effectiveness as a major-college kicker – 18 field goals and 58-for-58 on extra-point attempts to date – made him a semifinalist this season for the Lou Groza Award, presented annually to the top college kicker in the U.S. It also has prompted him to kick around the idea of a career in the National Football League.
“My lifelong dream was to play college football, and as I've started living out that dream, I think I’ve moved toward the next step -- to reach the NFL,” Fitzgerald said. “Having that accounting degree and my master’s in accounting, I definitely hope to utilize them when my playing career is over, whether that's a couple years from now or 10 years from now.
“I am excited to use those degrees at some point in the future.”
-- Pete Reinwald