ARIZONA CARDINALS

With plenty to offer, Larry Fitzgerald strives to help anyone he can

May 30, 2017, 12:39 PM | Updated: May 31, 2017, 3:16 pm
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, greets Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared G...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, left, greets Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff on the field after the Cardinals won an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Over the course of his NFL career, Larry Fitzgerald has earned a reputation for being a pretty nice guy.

Entering his 14th (and possibly final) NFL season, Fitzgerald said he has always made it a point to offer advice to anyone who may want or need it, in large part because it was given to him in his early days.

On Tuesday, Fitzgerald said he saw it happen as a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings with stars like Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Randy Moss, who helped each other and then later him.

Fitzgerald mentioned Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk and Shannon Sharpe — “I could name 100 guys who called me on my phone, ‘Fitz, I saw you play last week, you need to do a better job of getting out of this break.'”

The receiver made sure to note the conversations were not demeaning in any way, but instead were always meant to help him improve as a player.

“They don’t have to do that — Terrell Owens watching tape with me in the offseasons — that stuff means a lot to me,” he said. “I want to be a resource to the younger guys if they have questions for me; I want to be somebody that they can rely on and I can help them reach their goals just like I was able to reach mine.”

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald certainly entered the league with high expectations. He has delivered, however, with 1,125 career catches for 14,389 yards and 104 touchdowns in the regular season and another 57 catches, 942 yards and 10 scores in the playoffs.

Entering 2017, he is the Cardinals’ franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, and has caught at least one pass in a record 195 (and counting) consecutive games.

Last season he led the NFL with 107 receptions, becoming the third-oldest player in history to accomplish the feat.

As a player, he there is not much else he can provide. But as a mentor there is plenty, and the co-winner of the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award feels an obligation to help whoever he can.

Just as was done for him, he said he talks with as many wideouts as he can, mentioning Demaryius Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green and Antonio Brown.

“They’re not always picking my mind, but just checking in on them, see how they’re doing, see how their offseason is going,” he said. “I like to check on them and make sure they’re enjoying themselves and getting better.”

That mindset, one of trying to help not only teammates but opponents, is one Fitzgerald said was not particularly common back in the day. The prevalence of social media has helped build camaraderie, as has the number of charity events they attend.

There is also the Pro Bowl and other league-related functions that provide an opportunity for players to mingle, get to know each other and talk shop.

While they may be rivals on the field, off of it friendships are formed.

“I think it’s actually strengthened the league,” Fitzgerald said. “The competition’s still great, but I don’t know how it could hurt to be able to have resources like we are able to have now to pick guys’ minds and to be able to find things they do well and try to implement it to your game to try to improve.”

Fitzgerald admitted there were times earlier in his career when his willingness to chat and befriend opponents rubbed some teammates the wrong way, but he contended that it never impacted his game so it was a non-issue.

After all, it is possible to be a nice guy and great football player.

“We can be exchanging pleasantries, but the next time I come line up for you I’m still trying to take your head off,” he said. “It’s no different.

“It doesn’t diminish my competitive spirit at all.”

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With plenty to offer, Larry Fitzgerald strives to help anyone he can