CLEARWATER – It has been all about defense for Clearwater Central Catholic linebacker Deandre Fitz-Henley since he moved down from New York at the age of 8. Switching from basketball to football when he arrived in Florida, the rising junior is an experienced linebacker who is entering his second full season as a starter at CCC.
The 6’0″, 220-pounder has dropped 10 lbs. since the end of last season as he makes the switch from outside linebacker to middle linebacker.
Fitz-Henley made his high school debut at inside backer in the 21-14 spring game win over Clearwater on May 27. He says the transition hasn’t been tough at all.
“I played in the middle my whole career in little league,” Fitz-Henley said. “Linebacker is linebacker. Now, I’m the captain of the defense and I make the calls.”
After totaling 60 tackles as a freshman, he earned a starting spot at outside backer, adding 124 tackles (eight for a loss), two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery last season.
He said that coming into high school his biggest concern was learning all the plays.
“It’s totally a different game because you have to do more then just run around and make tackles. I had to get that down.”
Speaking of changes, longtime head coach John Davis retired in December after serving 14 years as the man in charge at CCC. He posted a 54-11 record as his group made it to the state tournament four consecutive seasons including three state semifinals and one state final. He coached nine years prior in his first stint from 1994-2002. His son-in-law Chris Harvey took over the job this off-season.
Fitz-Henley said it has been a smooth transition thus far.
“He’s [Harvey] been trying to keep it as a similar as possible. It hasn’t been anything different. It’s been really good.”
The Marauders have gone 23-3 in Fitz-Henley’s two seasons including 12-1 in 2015. However, Delray Beach American Heritage has beaten CCC in the 3A state semifinals in both 2014 and 2015. The Marauders lost a close one 31-24 in November.
He said that he started to feel what this team was building during the 2014 postseason as a freshman.
“Last year, it hit me and I wanted to win a state championship. It was frustrating, but now we all know what it takes to take that next step and win the state championship.”
Fitz-Henley calls playing for CCC a fun atmosphere to be around in general.
“I just love playing with everyone. Practice is fun and we are all competitive.”
With his impressive play a season ago, Fitz-Henley has already earned four offers from Washington, California, Massachusetts and Northern Arizona. He also has interest from Georgia Southern, Western Kentucky, Marshall and Mercer.
The 2018 prospect says he’s looking forward to taking visits to those schools, but right now he’s focused on improving his game and helping CCC win a state championship.
Fitz-Henley says his aggressiveness, nastiness and ability to get sideline to sideline are his biggest strengths. With the move to inside backer, he’s working on his speed and pass coverage.
He’s always had confidence built into his personality, saying: “I know what I’m capable of.”
On top of his starting role as the leader in the middle of the Marauders defense, Fitz-Henley will also play fullback, a position he loves because he gets to run full speed at people and hit them, he says.
He calls his dad his biggest role model.
“He’s been through a lot in life to put me in the position to be successful. No matter what he’s going through, he’s always making sure I’m in the best possibility in life.”
Fitz-Henley’s ultimate goal is to play college football and make it to the NFL. He says he wants to inspire people on his way to the top level.
This kid plays with a chip on his shoulder and that is evident on every play. He finds his way around the ball and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line.
Deandre Fitz-Henley will be earning more offers now that he has made the move to middle linebacker. It will better his game and help CCC’s defense become and even more complete unit.
Pay attention to Simba this season. Yeah, that’s his new nickname here in 2016.
Favorite player to watch – Lawrence Taylor, Luke Kuechly
Playlist before games – Kodak Black, YFN Lucci, Montana of 300
Favorite movies – Spike Lee movies, Do The Right Thing, Friday Night Lights
Favorite TV show – Martin
Fun fact about you that you think no one knows – “When I initially started playing football, I was going to be a quarterback. That was my goal. My coach told me I was too big and put me on defense.”
Nickname from teammates or friends – “Bobby”, “Simba”
Game film: Fitz-Henley’s Hudl tape
Photo credit: Big County Preps
In case you missed it: 1-on-1 with CCC WR Amari Burney
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.