3 young Cardinals wise beyond NFL years with Larry Fitzgerald as mentor
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is cut from a different cloth.
The All-Pro wideout handles his business on and off the field like a true professional, never ending up in headlines for anything other than balling out on Sundays.
Not many can say that nowadays, with social media and camera phones in everybody’s pockets.
The way Fitz handles himself has not only helped his own cause but the Cardinals’ too. In more ways than one.
The mentality has rubbed off on players over the years, and the wide receiver is seeing it in a trio of Cardinals.
“I’ve talked about it before: Trent Sherfield, Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds, I mean them guys, if you didn’t know how old they were, you’d think they were 30 years old and had been in the league for 10 years,” Fitzgerald said of his teammates after Thursday’s practice.
“The way they approach it the way they study it, the way they work, stay after practice. Whenever it takes for them to get better they just have a real mature approach about how they come out and practice and prepare for the game. If you had every rookie or second-year player like that you’d be playing deep into the postseason because that’s the way those guys go about it.”
Edmonds may not play the same position as Fitzgerald but that hasn’t stopped the running back from absorbing anything and everything he can from the future Hall-of-Famer.
“Fitz is a great mentor, great man first of all,” Edmonds said. “Just being around him, and coming into my rookie year, I always tell people like when you come in as a rookie you’re still a fanboy. When Fitz first said a word to me I went home and told my mom about it. That’s just how it was.
“But now being able to call Larry Fitzgerald my friend and someone who’s truly like a mentor to us. He shows us how to be a pro on the field and especially off the field in how we carry ourselves, how you got about your business, how to handle your business. It’s a blessing to have a guy like him be your friend in the locker room.”
This season, Edmonds continues to see an increase in touches per game with no signs of the trend slowing down. He’s shown when given the rock he can contribute in both the rushing and receiving game, accumulating 170 yards from scrimmage and a score on 19 carries and six receptions behind David Johnson in the backfield.
“Every time Chase touches the ball he’s dynamic,” Fitzgerald said. “He has a great understanding of when to jam it in there and get two yards and when he can make somebody miss in the open field and make something explosive. That usually takes a little more time to develop that but he already has it in just his second year. Anytime he touches the ball it’s good for us.”
That never-stop mentality has really struck a cord with Edmonds, who’s do-more-with-less way of playing is paralleled to Fitzgerald’s mindset.
“He’s one of the rare, rare supreme athletes, like LeBron [James] that don’t have any negative lighting on them,” Edmonds said. “Nobody’s perfect, somebody always has something there, but like with Fitz, guys like him, LeBron, [Tom] Brady, there’s truly nothing there. He just shows you how to be a pro man.
“He always talks about your cup never being full. He always wanted more, he always wanted to be more, be better. He got that $110 million deal, his cup wasn’t full. He’s still trying to work and be the best receiver ever.”
Next to Fitzgerald’s locker sits Sherfield’s. The two can often be seen chatting it up on the daily, whether it’s about things out on the field or joking around.
The second-year wideout, like Edmonds, is like a sponge in Fitzgerald’s presence, continually gathering information and confidence in his own abilities along the way.
“It means a lot to have a guy like Fitz being in the league for 16 years and him being able to notice that,” Sherfield said with Fitzgerald jokingly listening in to the WR’s answer. “Obviously that’s not what we do it for, but it means a lot because him seeing that from all three of us is just we’re just trying to approach the game just like how he does and just trying to learn from him.”
For Sherfield, being able to learn from a guy who transitioned from the outside-receiver spot to more slot has big a huge help in his development as well-rounded receiver, being that the young WR saw a similar move last season with the team.
“I’m really a guy that likes to watch people, not really listen to what they say and that’s the type of person Larry is,” Sherfield said. “He’s more so on the field ‘just watch me and you can learn’ so that’s what I did this year and even last year. Just watching him run option routes, whatever it may be, just trying to get certain leverage on a guy to get a ball and all those type of things.”
The development of young players on the field is something every team wants to see at the end of the day. They’re most likely the one’s to carry the reins of the organization at some point in the near future.
With Fitzgerald constantly influencing his younger counterparts on a regular basis, the trajectory of their abilities undoubtedly shoots up, giving the Valley and Cardinals pieces of the veteran receiver even after he does decide to call his playing days over.
Who wouldn’t want that?