DAVIE — As if being a first-round draft pick weren’t enough to make Minkah Fitzpatrick’s NFL Draft a time he’ll remember the rest of his life, a special present awaited him after he took the stage for the traditional photo op with the commissioner.
That’s when Fitzpatrick, a safety selected by the Dolphins with the 11th overall pick, opened a heartfelt letter from his mother, Melissa, who expressed the joy her son has given both her and Minkah’s father, also named Minkah, all his life.
This period of celebration for the Fitzpatricks also comes at a time of reflection. Hours before the draft, Melissa was sharing an emotional story with her son regarding the time she was about to give birth to him.
“She was really sick when she had me and you know, she almost lost her life having me,” Minkah told NFL.com. “It means a lot to me that she could be here with me today. I’m just grateful to have a mother like her.”
The letter no doubt will remain a prized possession and source of inspiration.
“I just want you to enjoy today and we want to see you get to work with your team,” she wrote. “By the time you read this, you already have your team, which I know you will help lead to countless victories.”
That last part — no doubt welcomed by Dolphins fans — probably brought a smile to Minkah’s face. Growing up, and even now, Melissa gives her son a grade for each of his games. And while he may have earned his share of As and Bs from Alabama coaches, he always knew his toughest critic was Mom, who rarely if ever issued an A. It’s probably where Minkah gets some of a work ethic that’s legendary around New Jersey, where he grew up, and Tuscaloosa.
“Since you could barely walk, I have watched you dream and have been blessed with watching you succeed and break down every barrier and obstacle that has been placed in your way,” Melissa wrote. “You have done it with honor and respect and a passion that is unparalleled.
“There is no greater joy than watching your son live out his dreams.”
After reading the letter aloud for NFL.com, Minkah smiled.
“I love you, too, Mama,” he said.