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Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick was the heartbeat of Alabama's defense, so his personal story received plenty of attention as the Crimson Tide became national champions again last season. Perhaps you've heard about the 2011 hurricane that destroyed his family's home in New Jersey and how they struggled to rebuild it.

But you've never heard the reason why Fitzpatrick's parents, Melissa and Minkah Sr., valued the house so much. Even Minkah had never heard the story until now, as he prepares to be one of the top picks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Minkah was just a baby when his parents endured a painful experience that defined their view of home ownership. They were renters, and they were unfairly evicted.

"We went through a situation with our first apartment that was really crazy, because we're an interracial family," Melissa says. "And the man literally threw us out, because we were an interracial family."

Melissa is white. Minkah Sr. is black.

There was no other reason to remove them as tenets.

"We didn't drink, we didn't smoke,  we didn't party," Melissa says.

Fueled by the sting of eviction, the Fitzpatricks worked hard to save enough money to buy a home of their own.

"Pushed us to never want to rent again," Minkah Sr. says. "Or be at somebody's mercy when it came to having somewhere to live."

Minkah is surprised when he hears this story.

Minkah Fitzpatrick Memorabilia

"I didn't know that happened to my parents," he says. "That just adds onto the importance of working on our home, what it meant to them. I definitely would have worked a whole lot harder if I knew that was why. Yeah, that's awesome."

Rebuilding it after Hurricane Irene in 2011 was all the more difficult because, like most insurance policies in New Jersey, the Fitzpatricks' coverage didn't include damage from flooding due to hurricane.

The financial squeeze became even tighter. Minkah Sr. lost his job when the company he had been working for went out of business, and Minkah was starting his freshman year of high school at St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City. Although Minkah earned some academic scholarships, the family still had to pay $3,000 a year in tuition. The school had a dress code, and most of Minkah's clothes were ruined by mold that resulted from the flood.

"I would go to the lost and found, and I'd just take stuff from lost and found if it was in there for a certain amount of time," he says. "I'd just take it from there and wear it around. I would keep most of it because I just needed clothes. If they don't want it, I'm going to take it then."

Ultimately Minkah graduated St. Peter's and headed to Alabama, and his family moved back into their house.
"That's why when we had the hurricane, it was really tough," Melissa says. "Because we lost our home. We didn't know if we could come back. And I did not want to go back to that scenario. Which people never could really understand."

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