While being the ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings, Larry Fitzgerald watched two of the best receivers of all time with little knowledge that he would one day join their company atop the position.
This past Sunday, Fitzgerald became the 10th player in NFL history to catch 100 touchdowns.
From his peers to those in the media, the jubilation around Fitzgerald’s latest milestone was honored throughout the NFL.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 7, 2016
There is no one way to speak highly of Fitzgerald. Calling him good isn’t fitting because he’s so much more, but calling him the greatest may be a bit premature given that his football career is still unfolding. One thing is for sure — he’s attained legendary status. That said, there is another “Larry Legend,” but this one isn’t from French Lick, Indiana.
The touchdowns, one-handed catches and precise route running are all breathtaking, and what makes Fitz’s accomplishments sweeter is his path to NFL pantheon.
Prior to being selected third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, Larry learned under the watchful eye of the late Dennis Green. The then-teenager had front-row seats to one of the most talented offenses ever assembled. Having the luxury of watching the likes of Korey Stringer (RIP), Robert Smith, Randall Cunningham, Jake Reed, Cris Carter and Randy Moss was the type of on-the-job training that likely helped Fitz evolve into one of the best wide receivers who ever played in the NFL — one who carved his way onto the Mt. Rushmore of wide receivers.
His success comes as no surprise. He was built for the rigors of the NFL. With his superhuman ability to catch just about anything thrown his way, Fitz was clearly born to join the pecking order of NFL wide receivers. The milestone touchdown itself was a reminder of the days when he trained with unique catching drills with his grandfather, Dr. Robert Johnson.
While his catch made history and headlines, it only solidified an already decorated career.
In 13 years, Fitz matched and eclipsed several NFL records all while playing with a cradle of mediocre quarterbacks. Outside of Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer, Fitz has hauled in touchdown passes from Matt Leinart, Max Hall, Josh McCown, Kevin Kolb and a host of quarterbacks who are likely selling home insurance.
No matter who manned the quarterback position, his performance, integrity and passion never wavered.
That is what separates him from some of the all-time divas that starred at the wide receiver position. Aside from playing with second-rate teammates, he never grimaced about the team’s misfortune as many elite players would have done. He’s had every right to go all Rod Tidwell on the Arizona Cardinals, but instead he remained fixated on the task of being a team player.
In similar circumstances, we’ve witnessed several elite players act in a manner that was ingenuous. But that has not been the case for Fitzgerald. There was no crying. There wasn’t a shirtless rendition of P90X in the driveway of his home. Nor were there any cryptic messages toward his team on social media. Fitzgerald has continued to give his all to the thousands of fans who flocked to the University of Phoenix Stadium as well as the supporters shrieking at the televisions in their humble abodes from near, far and wide.
Fitzgerald’s place among the best wide receivers of all time may be worth a debate in the barber shop. Where he lands between Moss, Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens is unknown at this point. But there is no denying his spot as one of the best wide receivers to play the game.
While we don’t know when he’ll end his illustrious career (he tried to quell a report that this will be his last season), it’s best to appreciate his ongoing accomplishments on the field, just as many did this past Sunday. He is clearly transcending many of the markers of the NFL. Put another way, he’s gone from chasing balls on the sideline to pulling down amazing passes in bounds en route to a gold jacket in Canton.
Not bad for a former ball boy.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp