Name: Larry Fitzgerald
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Position: Wide Receiver
Over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of folks. I’ve met a number of people. Can’t say many are like Larry Fitzgerald.
Sure, he catches a trillion passes a year and stays a favorite on fantasy football teams. Commendable, but to me, the best part is his servant heart. I first heard the name when I was a senior at Duncanville High School (just outside of Dallas). Opened up the mailbox, and there was Fitz on the cover of my Fellowship of Christian Athletes magazine, rocking a Pittsburgh jersey. After reading his story, I knew he had been divinely placed on a platform, and would only excel from there.
In 2004, Fitz started the Fitzgerald First Down Fund, just one year after his mother died from Breast Cancer. It focuses on bringing awareness to the disease and after school activities for the youth. I can relate, considering both my Mom and Grandmother had Breast Cancer.
Fitz says, over time, his relationship with God has played an integral role. “You have to build a house on steady foundation,” he explained. “My Christianity, my faith is my foundation. No matter what happens, good or bad, I’m able to keep balance. Keep on an even kill path.”
That mindset is why he stands apart. In 29 years, Fitz has been to more than 85 countries and served countless numbers of people. One thing that’s always impressed me, is his work with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Together with organization leaders and volunteers, Fitz helps fit hearing-impaired children around the world with hearing aids and changes their lives forever. He also works tirelessly with Oxfam America, which works to end poverty and injustice. When asked which country was his favorite to visit, Fitz told me Tanzania, which is nestled in east Africa.
“I’m very passionate about travel and humanitarian efforts around the world. We have it good. Even in our most impoverished areas of the United States, you turn the faucets on and have clean drinking water. You have sanitation systems. You have schools you can go to. A lot of the other countries don’t have that, so I think it’s important for a country of our magnitude and resources to give back to those type of people. I make it a passion of mine and I make it a point to try to get as many guys to come back with me.”
Fitz came out of Pittsburgh after two years, but academics weren’t far from his mind. Right now, he’s finishing up his Communications degree at The University of Phoenix and plans to be finished sometime in 2014.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know if I take care of my education and keep my reputation right, I’ll have some opportunities down the road.”
The future Hall of Famer finished our chat by saying if he wasn’t playing football, he’d be a teacher– just like his Mom, Grandmother and a couple of aunts.
“These kids are our future. You have to pour into them.”
I have no doubt Fitz will train and do what he needs to do to stay at the top of his game. We can also bet he’ll keep sharing the light and love of Jesus through his actions, which simply put, is what God wants us to do. We need more people like Larry Fitzgerald. If we all take a stand like him and do our part, the world would be a better place.
To learn more about his Foundation or contribute, visit: http://www.larryfitzgerald.com/helpingpeople/firstdownfund/. You can also follow his journey on Twitter: @LarryFitzgerald and Instagram: @larryfitzgerald.
I caught up with No. 11 at Leon Washington’s celebrity football camp in Jacksonville, where Leon grew up. As you can see in this clip, Fitz jumped right in and helped support Leon and his wife’s vision– giving back where needed and empowering young people for the future: