Larry Fitzgerald spent his formative years in the Twin Cities, with the coolest first job ever as a ball boy with the Vikings while shredding defenses as a wide receiver with Holy Angels.
And he’s about to enter the 15th season of what almost certainly be a Hall of Fame career — all of it with the Cardinals.
Vikings fans have been dreaming for years of Fitzgerald coming back to play for his hometown team, but something so tantalizing will probably never happen — even though Fitzgerald said Monday, “I’ve got purple running through my veins.”
He was speaking to reporters at his annual football camp at Holy Angels, where reinforcing life lessons outweighed football lessons.
“You bring a bunch of kids who have never met before … and they start building relationships,” Fitzgerald said. “Sports are the great equalizer. You don’t see race. You don’t see religion. You don’t see gender. You just see competition and someone you can go out and have a good time with.”
Minnesotans probably just need to be content to admire Fitzgerald’s game from afar and his personality from up close.
Fitzgerald, No. 3 on the NFL’s all-time receptions and receiving yards list, signed a one-year extension to stay with the Cardinals in 2018. He’ll turn 35 before the regular season starts, but with three consecutive 100-catch seasons on his ledger Fitzgerald doesn’t seem to be slowing down or going anywhere.
He tried to recruit Kirk Cousins to Arizona in the offseason, but the QB wound up in Minnesota. He had nothing but good things to say about the Cardinals’ veteran consolation prize — former Vikings QB Sam Bradford — but wouldn’t there be a path by which Cousins could recruit him here next year for a Super Bowl push?
“No, no. If I’m not playing in Arizona, I won’t be playing anywhere,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve built a good life for myself there, and to be able to play anywhere for 15 years is a true blessing.”
What’s clear is the Vikings still hold a special place in his heart. Fitzgerald spoke of his “wonderful childhood” filled with local sports icons like Kirby Puckett, Kevin Garnett and countless Vikings. He lamented the fact that the Vikings are shifting training camp from Mankato to Eagan this year.
And he showed that he still pays plenty of attention to the Vikings’ roster.
“(Cousins) made his decision and what was best for him and his family. You can’t go wrong with the Vikings,” Fitzgerald said. “They were knocking right on the door last year. They’re pretty much returning all their offensive weapons, and all their defensive players are coming back. They have a franchise quarterback and Dalvin Cook coming back. They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Of his age, Fitzgerald said it’s all about hard work. “People look at age, but Serena (Williams) was at the finals again in Wimbledon. LeBron is still the best player in the world. It’s about your mindset and what you put into it.”
Of Bradford, Fitzgerald said, “He’s one of the pure passers in the National Football League. … There’s nothing he can’t do.”
Bradford could become the 15th different Cardinals quarterback to throw at least one regular-season touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.
He might not be the last. Just don’t expect No. 16 to be a QB wearing purple, no matter how much mutual admiration exists.