Larry Fitzgerald has gone from college superstar to professional playmaker.
At nearly 6’3” and a solidly put-together 225 lbs, with huge hands that caught everything during his two years at Pittsburgh, he looked the part of an NFL receiver before he ever set foot on a professional football field. Larry Fitzgerald was as highly touted as any college receiver had ever been, and for good reason. In two years, he had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and a total of 34 touchdowns. His Sophomore season nearly garnered him a Heisman, as he racked up 92 catches, for 1,672 yards, and 22 touchdowns. More than the numbers though, he had the look of a can’t-miss player. He looked like the perfect wide receiver prospect.
The NFL Combine did nothing to stop the hype, as Fitzgerald passed every test with flying colors, and he was selected third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he had almost 800 yards and 8 touchdowns, and in year two he led the league with 103 receptions, for 1,400 yards and ten receptions. The prototype was fulfilling his promise. From 2005-2011, he averaged 91 receptions, 1,262 yards, and 9 scores. He also made the Pro Bowl in six of those seven years.
As important as the numbers he was recording, was the type of person he had become. In a league where receivers were considered “prima donnas”, Fitzgerald remained modest, going about his job with passion, but with humility. Off the field, he fulfilled a promise to his mother, who passed away in 2003, by working to get his college degree. He also established himself as a humanitarian, working with charities that he set up, as well as in concert with the NFL. There have been numerous honors bestowed on him for his charity work, and he has proven himself to be one of the true role-models in professional sports.
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Now in his 13th NFL season, Fitzgerald has lost some of the speed and athleticism that made him a special draft prospect. However, what he’s lost in raw skill, he’s more than made up for with hard work and savvy. So far in 2013, he leads the NFL with 88 catches, has 880 yards, and five touchdowns. At 33 years old, he finds himself inside the top ten all-time in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Fitzgerald is as sure-fire a Hall of Famer as any player in the league. His journey from ball boy, to college star, to NFL superstar has been a joy for fans to watch for fans, not only of the Arizona Cardinals, but of the NFL in general, to watch. He was once the prospect that everybody wanted, and now he’s the veteran that everybody should want to become. He was special as a 20 year old young man, and for different reasons, he’s just as special now.