Maybe he's such a fine human being because he grew up in the Midwest. Or maybe it's because now and then God turns out a "keeper". For whatever reason, Cardinals' receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes a mighty fine neighbor to have for we folks here in Phoenix.
The Arizona Cardinals plucked Larry Fitzgerald off the University of Pittsburgh campus in 2004. From the very beginning, despite a succession of mediocre Cardinal quarterbacks, Larry stood out. He seemed to be able to leap his body length in any direction and bring in the most unlikely of catches. And, once the ball touched his hands, it rarely left them. (Today Larry Fitzgerald holds the NFL record for "catches vs drops" ratios.)
Then, finally, a Kurt Warner came along, mentored Larry on the divinity of "team"...then went about throwing Larry passes that would take them down the football field...and all the way to the Superbowl.
Alas, when Warner retired, Arizona again had a succession of lousy quarterbacks. Yet, even with those piss-poor throws, Larry managed to rack up a thousand yards a season..playing for those mediocre teams.
Coach Bruce Arians came along, and, believing age was catching up to a 30 year old, recruited some fleet wide receivers and put "old" Larry in the slot...to be used mostly for those garbage like tosses over the opponents defensive line, when the wide-outs were too well covered.
And Larry, despite his disappointment at being relegated to "use to be", kept piling up receiving yards, catching "impossible" catches...and even blocking on the line, or for one of those younger wideouts.
Eventually Arians saw Fitzgerald's true worth; his intense spirit, his will to win, and a work ethic second to no one. On many occasions, when those fleet wide-outs weren't getting it done, it was those "garbage tosses" to Larry that moved the Cardinals down the field.
And when Larry is tackled by an opposing linebacker, when he is absolutely mashed, he leaps up, extends an arm to pull his opponent up, and blows their mind by asking "how's the family?"
So, even opposing gladiators, while fearing Larry Fitzgerald, love him for his humanity. And we in Phoenix do too. Larry spends hundreds of hours every year, mentoring inner city kids, visiting children in cancer wards, and using his foundation to help the less fortunate.
So, God was favoring Larry Fitzgerald last night...shining a big old light on him, and saying "look at my fine work!". When the Cardinals didn't seem to want to win this game it was Larry who stepped up, put the team on his shoulders, and carried them to victory...side-stepping and straight-arming tacklers as he picked up 75 yards that no one else seemed able to do.
This morning fans will be hard-pressed to find a number 11 jersey anywhere west of the Mississippi. Last night a few folks might have just discovered what we in Phoenix have known for a long time. Larry Fitzgerald is an outstanding player...having already accrued the mileage to get him to the Hall of Fame.
But he's an even finer human being. Game ball to you, Larry. Should you never win a Super Bowl, rest assured you've won our hearts...forever.