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Dan Bickley

Larry Fitzgerald’s pursuit of all-time greatness continues with Cardinals

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals makes a reception against the Cleveland Browns during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 38-24. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Larry Legend has worked hard for the nickname. What’s your favorite moment?

His streaking touchdown to give the Cardinals the lead in the Super Bowl? The catch-and-run against the Packers in the playoffs? His celebratory leap into Bruce Arians on a Christmas Eve in Seattle, tearing the old man’s rotator cuff? That surreal Sunday in Glendale when he actually spiked a football?

Nothing will compare to what might be coming in 2021.

That’s when Larry Fitzgerald could pass Jerry Rice for most receptions in NFL history. That day will be raucous and momentous, opening the doors to a debate no one expected. For some, it will be the moment Fitzgerald passes Rice as the greatest wide receiver in history.

Place your bets. Fitzgerald is just 172 catches removed from passing Rice. That’s two good years from a player who has 469 receptions in his last five seasons.

No one expected this fast-approaching milestone. Rice once was thought to be a peerless icon among wide receivers. Over the years, Fitzgerald has frequently scoffed at the notion of catching someone with Rice’s statistical armory, a man who put some of his records in the stratosphere.

In recent years, we’ve been more worried about Fitzgerald’s immediate future, not pedestals, records or Rice. We fret over the annual dance with retirement. And then we get that perfect jolt of sunshine. The day Fitzgerald announces that he’s returning for another season.

That moment arrived on Wednesday morning.

But this time was a bit different. Fitzgerald seems reinvigorated. He expressed his enthusiasm on social media, referencing a future that “is so bright for this team.” His decision came earlier than usual, clear signs that he is healthy and happy, in no need of deep reflection.

He’s also still productive, with no real drop-off in his game. Whatever speed he’s lost, he’s compensated with his brain and his experience. He also seems rejuvenated by Kyler Murray’s fresh energy and Kliff Kingsbury’s chill vibe.

And now we’re here, wondering if Fitzgerald can actually chase down one of Rice’s marquee milestones. That would be quite the scene. And for Valley fans, it would be appropriate payback for missing out on Randy Johnson’s 300th victory.

My favorite Fitzgerald moment is highly personal. It was the steamy morning he walked off the practice field dripping in a full-body sweat. He approached me and he hugged me close. Using me as a towel. For the sole purpose of ruining my shirt. Funny guy.

But as a nascent football town, our best memory is still to come. Fitzgerald announced he’s returning for another season on Wednesday, but in effect, I think he just signed up for two. For the chance of elevating over Rice. For the chance of possibly playing 20 seasons with one team. For the chance to stake his claim as the greatest of all time.

It’s easier than you think.

Keep in mind, Fitzgerald didn’t play with Joe Montana, Steve Young and Rich Gannon. He hasn’t been part of record-setting offenses like Rice enjoyed in San Francisco and Oakland. Fitzgerald has succeeded despite some barren times in Arizona, moving from the edge to the slot, watching coaches get fired and catching passes from 21 different quarterbacks. And now Rice is in his crosshairs?

The moment will be huge. If it happens. And you know what it will.

Because a perfect career like Fitzgerald’s deserves nothing less than the perfect Arizona sunset.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier