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Cardinals’ Leadership at WR

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals are suddenly young, talented and deep at WR. They believe that in 2018 they drafted a gem in Christian Kirk, who was one of the few lone bright spots during last year’s dismal season.

Just as Kliff Kingsbury’s K-Raid offense is made to order for QB Kyler Murray and RB David Johnson (as highlighted in the previous articles), it is tailor made for Kirk, who played in the system at Texas A&M.

Even though Kirk is only a 2nd year player, he appears to be the heir apparent to Larry Fitzgerald in terms of being the leader in the clubhouse and on the field.

The trio of rookie WRs the Cardinals drafted, Andy Isabella, Kareem Butler and KeeSean Johnson, all possess natural ability as receivers and a teeming love for the game of football. Isabella, in particular, is an insatiable gym rat who trains much the way Larry Legend always has.

Having mentioned four of the young talents as WR, it’s now time to dedicate the rest of this thread to a man Ron Wolfley and many others call “a living legend.”

The fact is—-like one of Fitz’s idols, Jerry Rice—-Larry Fitzgerald’s work ethic and leadership by example are nonpareil (aka “having no equal”).

Larry Fitzgerald refuses to cut any corners—-nor does he ask for special treatment. At 35 and heading into his 16th season, no one would have blinked an eye if Fitz, like Tom Brady or Terrell Suggs, decided to skip the OTAs.

Of course, Larry did not.

The fact that Fitz remains such an eager participant in all of the team’s activities is a testament to how much Fitz values teamwork. This off-season he had a special treat, not only learning the nuances of the exiting new K-Raid offense, but in being reunited with iconic WR coach Jerry Sullivan.

Imagine what a dream team of mentors the young WRs on the Cardinals have in Kliff Kingsbury, Tom Clements, David Raih and Jerry Sullivan, plus being able to ride the coattails of Larry Legend!

But—-what separates Fitz even more from his peers in the NFL is the mature way he handles success and how he always attributes his success to his teammates. Adrian Wilson says, “Go and try to find a TD Larry celebrate all by himself. Every time he scores, he flips the ball to refs and goes to celebrate with his teammates.”

After giving the Cardinals a short-lived lead in the Super Bowl, when he bolted straight through the Steelers’ secondary for a stunning 64 yard TD with 2:37 to go, here is what Fitz had to say to the international and national media: “I love my teammates, we fought all year through the adversity, the ups and downs.”

As brilliant and first ballot Hall of Fame worthy Larry Fitzgerald has been on the field—-he is perhaps an even greater legend off the field.

Fitz always harkens back to the days when his beloved mom, Carol, asked him and his brother to assist her with her charitable work for “The Circle of Love” foundation, in which they helped comfort an treat AIDS and HIV patients. Fitz concedes that he and his brother were not that eager to tag along, but he says, “I had to learn how to deal with life and death.”

Another valuable lesson that Fitz learned came from his ailing grandfather who advised his grandson to take full advantage of his good health while he has it.

“Time is the most valuable asset we all have,” Fitz concludes. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, what color you are, what religion you are, it’s the most valuable asset because nobody knows how much you have of it.”

This is the main reason why Fitz has traveled to all corners of the globe. Why he has met with US soldiers in Afghanistan. Why he went to Vietnam to see the concentration camps where his buddy Arizona Senator John McCain was detained and tortured. Why he honored a long-standing promise to his mom, by graduating from the University of Phoenix in 2016. Why he started his “First Down Fund” to help give children a better opportunity to be successful in life—-one of the main reasons why Fitz was honored by the NFL as the 2012 recipient of the Walter Payton Man of Year Award.

“A question I have always asked of myself is, do you have the eyes and the compassion to see the needs around us?”

Michael Bidwill recently informed the fans of how Larry Fitzgerald always comes over to see the venerable Bill Bidwill at Thanksgiving, but then leaves to go serve turkey dinners to the homeless and to children stuck in hospital beds during the holiday.

The one significant blight on Fitz’s record is the paternity suit and restraining order that Angela Nazario, his ex-girlfriend, former Oakland Raiders’ cheerleader and the mother of Fitz’s son Devin, filed against Fitz in 2008 for an alleged episode of domestic violence.

Nazario claimed that after a “play fight” got a little rough, when she tried to leave with their son, Fitz grabbed her by the hair and threw her down to the marble floor, thus rendering her disoriented, half-conscious and missing chunks of hair. She said that Fitz “mumbled” to her that “this is what happens when you try to take my son away from me.”

Fitz’s father, Larry Sr., claimed that the suits were Nazario’s attempt to “get a lot of money” from his son.

After a paternity test conclusively determined that Fitz is Devin’s father, Fitz worked out agreements with his ex-girlfriend on child support and shared custody.

Apparently, Fitz is very happy these days with his long-time girlfriend Melissa Blakesley, the mother of his second son, Larry.

While the report of Fitz’s domestic violence charge is disturbing, it does seem way out character for a man who has evolved into the most esteemed ambassador for the NFL and one of the most highly regarded philanthropists on the planet.

if it weren’t for this one incident, and we don’t really know whether Angela Nazario’s account of the episode of Fitz’s domestic violence is true, one could easily call Larry Fitzgerald “Saint Larry of Richfield, the Patron Saint of Stalwarts.”

Is it just a bizarre coincident that Larry attended The Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minnesota?

Seriously—-the way Larry Fitzgerald manifests such profound empathy, loyalty and concern for the well-being of others—-he is a truly benevolent soul.

If there is a fault in Larry’s leadership perhaps it is that he should get in his teammates’ faces more and be more assertive—-but that’s not Larry’s style. Larry is a nurturer.

Just look at the respect he afforded Mike McCoy, Steve Wilks and Josh Rosen while they were being fired or traded. Fitz lauded McCoy’s work this can the sacrifice he was making being away from his family in San Diego.

When Steve Wilks was dismissed, Larry tweeted:

When trade rumors were swirling around Josh Rosen, Fitz went out of his way to support his teammate:

“He’s extremely confident and not in a bad way,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s able to forget very quickly a bad play, a bad decision. He’s really good at being able to put things behind him. He’s a great teammate. Really insightful. Just great to be around. He’s somebody who is really trying to learn, always. He’s inquisitive about life. And people like that usually find a way to be successful because they put the effort in. He’s got some talented guys around him that are going to help continue to make plays for him. I think he’s going to be just fine.”

You see—-Fitz discovers and heralds the good in people—-not just on a surface level—-

As he does in all aspects of his life, Fitz digs deep.

The irony is—-why aren’t more of Fitz’s teammates trying to emulate him, his work ethic and his lust for life?

Well, Benjamin Franklin may have said it best in his essay “Moral Perfection” wherein he told of how he used to chart his every mistake with regard to 13 virtues in an effort to eliminate them. After struggling with the process for a year, Franklin arrived at the conclusion that those who are perfect are “either envied or hated.”

In Franklin’s judgement, he determined it was better to avoid that fate!

But—-here’s the extraordinary thing about Larry—-he is so humble and his concerns are so outward and focused on the needs of others—-that he is neither hated nor envied.

In essence, Larry Fitzgerald is the living manifestation of Theodore Roosevelt’s mantra: “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”

Thus, there is only one way to look at Larry—-and that is—-with inspired awe.

Much with the same kind of awe and appreciation we reserve for a saint.

Ultimately, for lifting humankind and all of us closer to the gods.