HOUSTON – Don’t get him wrong. Arizona Cardinals receiver and Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald Jr. wants to win Saturday night.
After all, this is his second time in his 13-year career that he’s been a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, which is considered the league’s highest honor off the field.
“But even if I don’t win, I’m not going to be unhappy,” Fitzgerald said Friday after a fan forum event with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and fellow finalists Eli Manning of the Giants and Greg Olsen of the Panthers.
“To be a finalist for the second time, I think it just shows that I’m making an impact and that other people realize that. That’s not what I’m doing it for, but I think it’s nice to be recognized for something that’s more meaningful than catching touchdowns.”
Fitzgerald has several charitable causes he supports. No. 1 on the list is cancer research. His mother, Carol, died in 2003 after a battle with breast cancer.
“There was never any time where it was, ‘I want to do [charitable work].’ It’s just the fabric of who I was [raised to be],” Fitzgerald said. “I’m just a person my parents raised me to be. My mother [Carol], she was very active in nonprofits when I was younger, and she would just have my brother [Marcus] and me with her.
“A Saturday, she would say, ‘We’re going to go over to this AIDS walk or over to this breast cancer research fundraiser. That was just kind of what we did. Now, it’s like second nature. It taught us compassion. Now, if I go to a school and talk to the kids in Phoenix or Minneapolis, and the teacher comes to me and says, ‘I got 40 kids in my classroom and some of them don’t have backpacks to carry or utensils or pencils,’ I will go right to Wal-Mart and just load the truck up with everything they got and go back and just drop it on the front porch and leave.”
Fitzgerald ranks third in NFL history in receptions (1,125), eighth in touchdown catches (104) and ninth in yards receiving (14,389). He’s 33 and just announced earlier this week that he has decided after careful consideration to play a 14th season in 2017.
“I think I knew probably after watching that Cowboys [playoff] game,” Fitzgerald said. “Just sitting back watching, the fire was burning. I could feel it.”
He likes Arizona’s talent level, how his body is healing at age 33 and motivation to end his career on a better note.
“I can’t go out at 7-8-1,” he said. “That’s not how I want to do it.”