Hartman: Denny Green predicted Fitzgerald's future

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2012 - 11:46 AM

The ex-Minnesota coach said the Cardinals receiver, then a Vikings ball boy, would turn out to be an All-Pro.

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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald

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Denny Green was a pretty good judge of talent when he coached the Vikings to a 97-62 record during his 10 years as the Vikings coach.

And Denny could even judge the future talent of ball boys, as he proved one day when I was standing near him in Mankato. A 15-year-old ball boy named Larry Fitzgerald had made one of several great catches while working with some of the quarterbacks, and Green said, "That kid will be an All-Pro some day."

Well it turned out that after Fitzgerald starred at Holy Angels and at the University of Pittsburgh, Green was the head coach of the Cardinals, the Vikings' foe Sunday, when Fitzgerald entered the draft in 2004. So Green drafted Fitzgerald with the No. 3 overall pick and he has become that All-Pro receiver, just as was predicted.

According to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, Fitzgerald is the best receiver in the NFL, and the Vikings will have trouble containing him Sunday.

Frazier said what makes Fitzgerald great is "his size, his determination, how athletic he is, he has good speed. He is so determined to catch the ball and believes that nobody can cover him. He's a good athlete.

"The all-time greats, he's right up there with them. He's already begun to set a ton of records as a wide receiver. I'm sure when his career is over he'll be recognized as one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game, if not the greatest."

The Vikings coach said Fitzgerald has the whole package -- good speed, great power, quickness.

"Everyone pretty much double-covers him," said Frazier. "There are times when you try to single him up but most of the time you're going to be doubling him.

"He's arguably the best wide receiver in the National Football League, and we have to do a good job of containing him. He's a great player."

Fitzgerald has remained a startling consistent receiver despite the fact that Arizona hasn't had a steady starting quarterback since Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season. From 2008-2011 Fitzgerald played in all 16 games each season, gaining more than 1,000 yards receiving each year -- including his second-highest total of his career last season when he had 1,411 yards -- while grabbing 39 touchdowns.

He's had that great consistency despite the fact that in 2010 and 2011 the Cardinals featured four different starting quarterbacks, with no one starting more than nine games in a season.

This year hasn't been much different. John Skelton was the starter to open the season, but then hurt his ankle in the season opener. Kevin Kolb, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles to be the starter in 2011, took over but then injured his ribs last week and Skelton came back in. Skelton will start Sunday.

Meanwhile Fitzgerald remains productive with 36 receptions for 430 yards -- both team highs -- and has scored three touchdowns.

Fitzgerald comes from an athletic family. His father, Larry, played football at the University of Toledo and is involved in the media here. Larry's brother Marcus was an outstanding player at Marshall University.

And Larry's mother, Carol, was something special, and she died much too early from complications due to breast cancer, and the foundation which bears her name is one of the best.

Deal was in the works

New Mexico State Athletic Director McKinley Boston confirmed that New Mexico State and the Gophers agreed to a home-and-home series, with the first game at New Mexico State in 2013 and at Minnesota in 2014. Boston confirmed the news that appeared in my Sunday column, along with the fact that the Gophers had scheduled future home games with South Dakota University and Fresno State. Under an arrangement made months ago, New Mexico State and the Gophers will exchange $200,000 checks as a part of the payment with neither school getting an edge. Meanwhile North Carolina, who the Gophers paid $800,000 to get out of the home-and-home series with them, has scheduled Old Dominion to replace the Gophers in their home game next year.

Jottings

• Former Gopher great Eric Decker has a good sense of humor. Decker was on the ESPN postgame show following Monday Night Football after Peyton Manning and the Broncos overcame a 24-0 deficit to beat the Chargers 35-24. Decker caught six passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in that game. He also stumbled after being all alone for what looked like a sure touchdown catch in the second quarter. He took it in good humor though, after the game on Twitter he joked: "If ya'll didn't see, they had trip wire out there tonight. I reported it to the NFL so an investigation is pending."

• The coach of the New Mexico State Aggies is former Gopher defensive back Dwayne Walker, who coached his team to 28-21 victory over the Gophers last year. New Mexico State is 1-5 this year.

• Gopher offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was talking about how good a football player MarQueis Gray is and how much he is missed when injured. "He brings a lot to the table and I know speaking briefly with Jerry Brown, who is the secondary coach at Northwestern and a guy I have known for 25 years, he just shakes his head because I think that MarQueis is a headache guy for defenses because of the different things he can do. When he's in there it's definitely a different dynamic on our offense.''

• When the NL West champion San Francisco Giants acquired outfielder Hunter Pence, they sent outfielder Nate Schierholtz and two minor leaguers to Philadelphia in return. One of those minor leaguers was former Gophers pitcher Seth Rosin, who went 2-2 with a 4.08 ERA in 37 games at Class A between the Giants and Phillies organizations this year. Rosin, 23, was a fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2010. The Twins drafted him in the 28th round out of Mounds View High School in 2007, but he didn't sign.

• The Giants had two former Twins pitch for them this season. Besides lefthanded reliever Jose Mijares, whom they claimed off waivers from Kansas City on Aug. 6 and has seen a lot of action this postseason, they also had righthander Eric Hacker, who made two appearances for the Twins in April 2011 and pitched in four games for San Francisco this season, including one start in April because of a rainout. That was one of only two starts all season for the Giants by someone outside of their regular rotation.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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