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Larry Fitzgerald remembers Dennis Green in essay

Arizona Cardinals' head coach Dennis Green, right, talks with Larry Fitzgerald in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006. The Cardinals won 26-20. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Dennis Green was more than just a football coach.

In a Player’s Tribune piece written by Larry Fitzgerald, the wide receiver recalls his longtime friendship with Coach Green, whom he met when he was a young boy and looked up to from that day on. When Green and the Cardinals drafted Fitzgerald, Green continued to be the coach and mentor he had always been.

As a young man, Fitzgerald was a ball boy for the Vikings while Green coached that team, and Green became “sort of an uncle” to the eventual NFL star.

When I look back on his legacy, I don’t think about any individual play, game or postgame press conference. Instead, I think of him as a trailblazer. You’re talking about somebody who was the first African-American head coach at Northwestern and Stanford, two of the finest educational institutions in the country. This was an intelligent, compassionate and astute man. But for all of his own accomplishments, he always wanted to make those around him better.

Green coached the Arizona Cardinals from 2004 to 2006. He also was the head coach of two Division I universities and the Minnesota Vikings. Under Green, Fitzgerald played his first three pro seasons, starting 45 games and logging 24 touchdown receptions.

But for all of his success as a coach and mentor, perhaps his greatest legacy is his beautiful family. Right now my thoughts are with his wife Marie, daughter Vanessa and son Zachary. If you were ever fortunate enough to spend time around the people closest to him, you got a very good idea of the kind of man he was.

Though Green infamously shouted “they are who we thought they were” after a loss to the Chicago Bears, Fitzgerald more thoroughly recalled a fishing trip they took together. He called it a day he wouldn’t forget.

“That’s the Dennis Green I’ll always remember.”


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