Congratulations to Twin Cities native, Holy Angels grad and former Vikings ball boy Larry Fitzgerald Jr. for winning the NFL’s inaugural Art Rooney Award for  sportsmanship. The Cardinals receiver won the award, which is named after the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Saturday night.

Here is some of what Fitzgerald had to say Saturday night …

(on mentioning that the award being voted on by his peers meant a lot to him) “Well, any time you get recognized by your peers, your teammates, it’s really humbling. It’s not a popularity contest, just guys’ authentic feelings, and it means a lot to me to be recognized as the first recipient of the Mr. Rooney Award. What he expemplified, everybody knows the famous story after the ‘immaculate reception’ he went down and waited for Jack Tatum in the locker room to shake his hand. That kind of exemplifies the man he was and his son, his family, still carry on that same legacy now with the Steelers.”

(on why it is important for him to carry himself the way he does on and off the field, and what this award embodies) “It’s not like I’m consciously thinking about it or anything like that, it’s just who I am. It’s the way my parents raised me. I can always remember back to my first year of Pop Warner football, my coach Don, he used to always preach sportsmanship to us. No matter if we win, we lose, we draw, you always have to respect your opponents and give them the respect that they deserve because they are competing and playing the same game that you are.”

(on how important it is for him to be a role model to younger players and young kids) “I think it’s extremely important. Every time I walk into the stadium and I see a child with my jersey on, it means a lot to me because I know a parent would never purchase a jersey for their child of a player that they didn’t think was quality enough for them to choose to wear it. It means a lot to me that they would honor me by wearing my jerseys, and we have a great platform as NFL players. Millions and millions of people watch our games. They watch the way we conduct ourselves on the field. They read about how we conduct ourselves off the field, and I think it’s important that we all represent ourselves well, our organizations and the shield in the right way.”

(on Head Coach Bruce Arians saying the Arizona Cardinals would be suiting up for the next Super Bowl, and if he will be here with the team) “Well, first I would like to congratulate Coach Arians. To be a two-time Coach of the Year in only three years, that’s unprecedented, and I would like to congratulate him. To be able to do what he accomplished this year with so many different lineups, so many different changes, it’s really a true testament to him, his staff and the way he put this team together. In terms of next year, I have no idea what’s going to happen. That’s still to come, but I love Arizona. I love playing for the Cardinals and I love working for the Bidwill family.”

(on if getting the award is bittersweet because Kurt Warner did not get elected to the Hall of Fame) “Yeah, I mean, it’s gut-wrenching to be honest with you. There is nobody who deserves it more than Kurt, not only as a Hall-of-Fame player but a Hall-of-Fame human being. It’s tough to see him not on that stage, but I know it’s coming. His time is coming, and it’s not going to be far from now that he will be walking across that stage.”

(on how special the Art Rooney Award is to him given his ties to Pittsburgh) “Well you know, my facility and school was right next door to the Pittsburgh Steelers. We saw them practice every single day and got to know Mr. Rooney very well and I remember after we lost the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh, Mr. Dan Rooney came up and found me and shook my hand and still, just the class of that family and the way they run their organization, it was something that I recognized at an early age.”

(on how quarterback Carson Palmer is doing in his rehabilitation) “Yeah, we always talk. About 10 of us, we’re all on group chat all the time, sending pictures of our kids and different food that we’re eating, so we keep in contact. He’s working extremely hard to get back, and (quarterback) Drew (Stanton) is getting back healthy too. Both of those guys are feeling good, and they’ll be ready to go.”

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