SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Monday, August 27, I’m on the road again doing what I do. This time, I’m not covering a game or sporting event. As many of you know, my oldest son Larry, Jr., NFL star with the Arizona Cardinals, has done many good things on and off the field.
Two weeks ago, he was named the 2012 NFL Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian Award winner. Celebrity Fight Night, the annual charity event held by Muhammad Ali, presented Larry, Jr. an award as well. As a parent, that makes you proud.
This summer, Larry, Jr. donated a new basketball court to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in South Minneapolis, which is in the blue state of Minnesota. It’s the same park where he first played pee wee football as a small child. Also, he has traveled around the world helping others.
Monday, the red state of Arizona for the fourth straight year hosted Celebrity Servers at Morton’s. Larry and some of his teammates and friends act as waiters serving 250 guests who pay $500 a plate to benefit the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund. This year Michael Irvin, Marshall Faulk, Eric Dickerson and Kurt Warner were among the surprise celebrity servers. Morton’s came to me five years ago and asked if my son would be interested in doing an event like this. I suggested to him that he should, and now it’s one of the biggest events in Arizona.
Larry as a child always had a lot of energy. When he was five years old, he once jumped into a nine-foot-deep swimming pool and I dove in and saved him. In grade school he attended Burroughs Elementary in South Minneapolis, and one of his teachers just could not stop putting him in detention. So my late wife Carol and I pulled him out and placed him in Pilgrim Lutheran.
While at Pilgrim, one day he decided to skip school. He drifted over to King Park and was playing basketball. A nice lady working at the park named Eunice called me, and I went and got him and disciplined him.
After graduating from Pilgrim in the eighth grade, Minnehaha Academy awarded Larry, Jr. an athletic scholarship for high school. I remember going to one of his football games; they got beat 75-6 by DeLaSalle. I was hot — I told his mom afterward that we had to get him in a better situation. We found it and placed him at Holy Angels in Richfield, where he was All-State twice.
While at Holy Angels, I got him and his brother Marcus jobs as balls boys with the Vikings. Dennis Green was head coach, and I hosted his weekly radio shows on the National Programming Network. Green and I became friends after he saw I was unfairly fired by KFAN Radio.
Working as ball boys helped my sons’ development by every day being around NFL stars Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Jake Reed, Brian Billick, Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper and others and learning from the best. One problem: Larry, Jr.’s GPA was not high enough his senior year to get a Division I-A athletic scholarship. So we did our homework to figure out the best option. We decided on prep school, not junior college. At prep school, after one year he would get four years to go to college; going to junior college meant losing two years.
Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania, was the ticket. Vikings star Chris Doleman had attended Valley Forge also before going to Pittsburgh. I asked him about what it was like before deciding to send Larry, Jr. midway in his senior year at Holy Angels. Larry, Jr. graduated with honors from Valley Forge and decided to go to the University of Pittsburgh also.
Pittsburgh shared the same training area and practice fields with the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers. So Larry, Jr. was able to tap into more NFL experience. He nearly won the Heisman Trophy his sophomore year.
After two years at Pittsburgh, Larry, Jr. was given permission by the NFL to enter the draft. He was drafted in the first round with the third pick by the Arizona Cardinals, with General Manager Rod Graves and Coach Dennis Green. In 2004 Green had been hired as their new head coach. Believe it or not, it’s year nine and the regular season starts in two weeks.
Since 2005, the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund has supported young people and families. Organizations like Horizons Youth Program at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis, Plano Vision Development Center in Chicago and the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund have received contributions to support their causes.
Every child deserves a chance to achieve their dreams. It’s the responsibility of parents to help keep those dreams alive by doing what must be done, giving tough love and support. Larry, Jr. is a child who finally got it. Now he’s doing his part to help others.
Fitz Notes exclusive: Twins awarded 2014 mid-summer classic!
The Minnesota Twins have been awarded the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game at Target Field.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.