GLENDALE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald got “choked up” as a spectator at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this weekend.
Listening to the stories of how those seven inductees arrived at this ultimate individual pro football honor impressed the star receiver.
Of course, Fitzgerald was there to watch Kurt Warner inducted.
“It was great be there, to be able to support a good friend and mentor,” Fitzgerald said.
But the experience meant a whole lot more to the 10-time Pro Bowl receiver who surely will find himself on that podium in Canton, Ohio, in the future.
“The overall experience I had yesterday was one of the top five I’ve ever had,” Fitzgerald said before the Cardinals practiced Sunday. “Between intermissions, to be able to go down and rub shoulders with the likes of Dan Marino and John Elway and Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. I mean, to see so much history, so many wonderful players who laid the foundation for what I’m able to do, what all of us are able to do.”
The Cardinals played Dallas in the Hall of Fame game Thursday night and Arizona coach Bruce Arians gave Fitzgerald permission to stay behind to witness Warner’s induction.
And why not? The two were among the most prolific passing combinations in the NFL in their few seasons together, particularly in Arizona’s stunning run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season.
Fitzgerald ranks third in NFL career receptions, ninth in yards receiving, and eighth in touchdown catches. But he said he didn’t allow himself to dream about what it would be like to be among the honorees as he watched Saturday’s ceremony.
“I don’t ever think about that,” he said. “Obviously you hope the opportunity presents itself at some point, but it was more you’re just happy for the guys that you know. TD (Terrell Davis) waited a long time, and obviously I’ve known LaDainian (Tomlinson) for a really long time. Jason Taylor and guys like that I’ve known over the years, so you’re just happy for guys like that.”
He did think about how long it would take to tell his story if he was to make an acceptance speech.
“I think you should have the time to speak as long as you like,” he said, “to be able to encapsulate your entire life to that point. I started playing football at 6 years old. I’ll be 34 here in a couple of weeks. Think about how many people have touched your life in that many years: the coaches, the guidance counselors, relatives. There are so many people to be able to recognize, and to talk about all of that in 20 minutes, it would be difficult for anybody.”
Fitzgerald calls himself a football historian. He has toured the Hall of Fame twice and doubts younger players would find it as moving an experience as he has.
“I don’t know if the younger generation really knows or cares that much,” he said. “It’s a completely different generation. You take a young guy in there, they probably wouldn’t know 70 percent of the guys in there. But I knew everybody from sight. I remember my dad bringing me media guides home when he was covering games and I would go through the whole thing cover to cover, from the owners to the trainers. I would know everybody. That’s just how I am, so my appreciation might be a little bit different than most.”
Fitzgerald, who has not said whether he will play beyond this season, said his love of football history impacts his approach to the game.
“It helps me to appreciate it more because I know how difficult it is, and how lucky you have to be to not only make it to the NFL, but to be able to stick,” he said. “A lot of things have to go your way, especially being immortalized as one of the greatest to ever do it.”