Paul Fitzpatrick Sr., a Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame football player in Bishop Timon and Maryland and longtime coach at his high school alma mater, died Friday. He was 74 years old.
He played high school football, basketball and baseball before returning to coach football for 28 seasons, including an undefeated campaign in 1979 and two seasons ranked No. 1 in The Buffalo News poll in 1983 and 1985.
“Coach Fitz” touched the lives of many, including Charlie Comerford, the athletic director of Western New York Maritime Charter School who had known Mr. Fitzpatrick since Comerford’s childhood.
“From a young age he was always a role model,” Comerford said Monday. “It’s really hard to put it into words. Knowing him since I was so young, he’s always been the coolest guy in the room, the nicest guy in the room, the most respected guy in the room, and the best athlete in the room.
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“He was just all of those things, and he was also the most humble guy in the world. … He meant the world to everyone and meant the world to me.
As an athlete with the Tigers, Mr. Fitzpatrick earned All-Catholic selection in football and basketball as a senior in 1966, in addition to being named All-Western New York in football. Mr. Fitzpatrick’s accolades continued as he won football and basketball team MVP awards and led Timon to a Manhattan Cup title.
Mr. Fitzpatrick’s high school career earned him the opportunity to attend the University of Maryland on a full scholarship and he played in the 1967, 1968 and 1969 seasons. In three seasons, he played 29 career games at the running back with 77 carries for 294 yards and a touchdown. He also had 17 receptions for 177 yards and two scores.
As a senior, he won the team’s “unsung hero” award and led the Terps in scoring with three touchdowns and two extra points.
“He embodied everything a man is,” Comerford said. “He was a gentleman, he treated everyone the right way, and those are things I will remember about him. The way he treated people is something I will remember forever.
At the end of his college years, he returned to Buffalo and spent seven years at Baker-Victory High School as an assistant football coach. After his time at Baker, Mr. Fitzpatrick returned home and joined the Tigers in 1978. In his first season with his alma mater, Timon won the Bishop Burke League Championship.
Overall, Mr. Fitzpatrick holds the Timon record of 161 wins.
“I don’t think there’s a person in this world who would have one negative thing to say about Paul,” Comerford said. “You could interview 5,000 people and all of them would happily talk enthusiastically about him.
“He made everyone feel like the most important person in the world. He was a special guy. Everyone who knew him would have the same kind of opinion of him.”
He is survived by his wife, Jeanne; daughters Kerry, Jenny and Molly; and six grandchildren.
His son, Paul Jr., who was a 13-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, died in August. A 1999 Timon graduate, he was a Timon Sports Hall of Famer and assistant coach. The family has requested that donations be made to Timon’s scholarship fund named in honor of Paul Jr.
The funeral will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Victoire.