Jimmy Collins Special Awards 2011An endearing lady in her 90s and a plucky teenage — Lurlyn Fitzpatrick and Tyler Dutruch — are this year’s Special Award recipients.
Fitzpatick, know to all as “Mrs. Fitz,” dedicated 41 remarkable years to the hundreds of athletes and coaches she befriended while working at the Tulane football offices. Dutruch, an outstanding offensive lineman at Pope John Paul II High School, staunchly refused to let Type 1 diabetes slow him down, emerging as an elite athlete.
The Lurlyn Fitzpatrick era started in 1964 when she accepted a job as a part-time, $2.50-per hour, secretary for Head Coach Tommy O’Boyle. With no designated workplace in the cramped football offices, she set up shop in the recruiting director’s office.
In the years that followed, she worked with 11 head coaches and well over 100 assistant coaches. But most of her memories are of the scores of young men who frequented the office; some just to hear her cheerful greeting and some in need of cheering up when personal problems arose. Mrs. Fitz (pictured right with Sugar Bowl President Lance Africk) was always there to listen and to help.
As true testimony to her unique relationship with the athletes, a total of 160 former players traveled from all over the country for a weekend in her honor in 2008. A reception featured the announcement of an endowment fund in her honor. The “Ms. Fitz Endowment Fund” directly benefits the football program. A website was established with comments from her formers players and details about the fund (www.msfitzfund.com).
The next day she was honored at halftime of the Green Wave football game on the Louisiana Superdome turf.
In 1993, relatively early in her career, Fitzpatrick was inducted into the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame. The plaque in her honor shines brightly next to the most legendary players and coaches in Green Wave history. She was only the second non-athlete to join the Hall.
June 12, 2011, marked her 92nd birthday; Dutruch was 19 on May 22.
Starting football when he was six years old, Dutruch played other sports off and on but clearly his first love was on the gridiron. When he was 11, he learned of the severity of his diabetic condition, one that required several insulin shots a day. The activity during football practice in the heat and humidity of South Louisiana exacerbated the problem. But Tyler persevered, to the admiration of his coaches and teammates.
He became a familiar figure on the sidelines between offensive series, sticking his finger to check his blood glucose level. He would hand signal the numbers to his parents in the stands, occasionally moving over to the fence so they could assist with an injection of insulin.
While on the field, Dutruch was certainly no slouch. A three-year starter, he received all-district honors in 2010 as his team finished at 8-4, reaching the Class 2A Regionals. Having received his degree, he is now headed for Southeastern Louisiana University.
He was a candidate for the national High School Rudy Award, named for famed Notre Dame walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, which recognizes athletes who have served as an inspiration to others. Dutruch reached the final 12 in a field of 250 nominees, and received a $5,000 scholarship as the “fan favorite,” determined by online voting.
While his condition prohibits future participation as an athlete, Dutruch has indicated he may continue to foster his passion for football as a coach. “Tyler made the players around him better and he made me a better coach,” said PJPII Head Coach Marc Jeanmard.
Story submitted by Bill Curl of the Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee.