On August 31, 1983, at St Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, a star was born.
That star is Larry Darnell Fitzgerald Jr. Since beginning Pee Wee at age 10, Fitzgerald has blown away spectators not just with his skills but his classy attitude as well.
Never one to celebrate, blast teammates or coaches, Fitzgerald is one of the most humble, outspoken players in a league where most top receivers are divas.
The combination of strength, height, athleticism and instinctive football knowledge has elevated Fitzgerald to be compared to the all-time great receivers such as Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Michael Irvin, etc. Thousands tune in to Arizona Cardinals games every Sunday, simply hoping to see the next top-10 highlight by the most electrifying player in the league.
The Early Years
Fitzgerald's father, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., is a sportswriter for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, where he covers the Minnesota Vikings. Through his connections with the team, Larry Jr. became the team's ball boy from age 12 through high school.
Fitzgerald began his freshman year of high school at Minnehaha Academy, where he played defensive back on the school's "B" team. By midseason, he was a 14-year-old playing wide receiver and a little quarterback for the varsity team.
Meanwhile, with the Vikings, he had the privilege of studying Moss, Jake Reed, and Cris Carter, who reached out to him as mentors.
After his freshman year, Fitzgerald transferred to Holy Angels Academy, where he was stellar and began getting national recognition. He definitely had the skills to play, but his ever-declining grades were too low for a Division-I college. He finished high school at Valley Forge Military Academy and improved his grades enough to get into college.
Larry's Stunning College Career
Fitzgerald attended the University of Pittsburgh and quickly became recognized as the best receiver in the NCAA.
His spectacular sophomore season earned him the Walter Camp Award as the best NCAA player, the Biletnikoff Award as the best wide receiver and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
In his 26-game career at Pitt, Fitzgerald recorded 2,677 receiving yards and set a school record with 34 touchdowns, 22 coming in his sophomore year. Furthermore, he holds the NCAA record with at least one touchdown in 18 straight games.
What makes this even more stunning is that Fitzgerald didn't report he had a torn ligament in his hand for almost the entire season.
A teammate stated, "He only told the trainer, but I was his roommate so I knew. He went that entire year catching balls in practice with one hand. He never dropped one."
Fitzgerald to the Big League
After his Heisman caliber season at Pitt, Fitzgerald decided to forgo his college career and pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. He was selected as the No. 3 pick by the Cardinals. Coincidentally, then-cardinals head coach Dennis Green was the Vikings head coach during Fitzgerald's days as a ball boy for the team.
Fitzgerald was an instant success, recording 760 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie year. However, he became a household name in his 2005 sophomore season. He led the NFL with 103 receptions, recorded 1,409 receiving yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He earn his his first Pro Bowl selection.
In his third season, he still managed to dominate despite missing three games with injury. He caught 69 passes, for 946 yards and six touchdowns.
In 2007, he had another stellar season, but in 2008 he was simply unbelievable. In the Cardinals' pass heavy offense, Fitzgerald burned any corner or safety covering him, recording 96 catches for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His 2008 playoff performance will go down in NFL history. He tied an NFL record with three touchdown receptions in a playoff game. All three came in the first half, making him the first receiver ever to accomplish that feat.
In the Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he caught two touchdowns.
Additionally, he surpassed Jerry Rice's single postseason receiving records from the '88-'89 playoffs with 546 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
He was named Pro Bowl MVP after catching two more touchdowns. After the Pro Bowl , it was leaked that Fitzgerald had played the whole postseason with a broken thumb, making his records even more significant.
Ready to be Considered With the Greatest?
To date, Fitzgerald has played in 75 NFL games. Let’s see how his stats stack up against the greats through the same period.
Larry Fitzgerald: 520 receptions, 7,050 yards, 58 TD
Jerry Rice: 447 receptions, 7,866 yards, 79 TD
Michael Irvin: 249 receptions, 4,364 yards, 32 TD
Randy Moss: 525 receptions, 8,375 yards, 77 TD
Cris Carter: 241 receptions, 3,506 yards, 33 TD
Considering how the style of play has differed since the late 80's, early 90's, these stats are very similar. Pending injuries, we could be seeing a bust of Larry Fitzgerald in Canton at the end of his career.
What do you think?