It took only two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh for Larry Fitzgerald to make a name for himselfa big name. After 18 consecutive games with a touchdown reception and 14 games with at least 100 yards receiving, Fitzgerald's moniker was scattered all over the Panther record books. After his sophomore season, he earned the 2003 Walter Camp Player of the Year award and came in second to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White for the Heisman Trophy.
With the talent and accolades to back up his game, Fitzgerald was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft; and by 2005, after hauling in 103 receptions for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns, Fitzgerald was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
Although he's accomplished ridiculous things at every level of ball, Fitzgerald isn't about the stats, awards and recognition. Here, he explains exactly what keeps him going.
STACK: You were a ball boy for the Vikings when Cris Carter and Randy Moss were there. What did you learn from that experience?
Larry Fitzgerald: I think the biggest thing it taught me was the amount of work those guys put in during the week. When people watch NFL games on TV, they see the success guys have on Sunday. They don't see the work they put into it during the weekMonday through Saturdayor the work ethic it takes to make them premier players on Sunday. I saw that, and it really motivated me to achieve that same level of excellence.
Was it at all intimidating being around pro athletes while you were a high schooler?
LF: No, I wasn't intimidated at all. I felt blessed to have an opportunity like thatto see the greatest in the business work like that.
Did any one thing you witnessed help you improve?
LF: There wasn't just one thing. It was cumulativetheir practice habits, the way they took care of their bodies throughout the week and the way they got their rest. Everything showed me how they kept themselves fresh and maintained that healthy lifestyle.
Did your dad's career as a sports editor fuel your passion for sports?
LF: I think my passion for sports came from within. I had been around [the players], and they showed me the paththey showed me that this is the kind of life I wanted, and that this is what I wanted to do when I got older. I was always carrying that in front of me and chasing that dreamI'm still chasing it.
Did your game improve in college?
LF: Yeah, coaches in college know how to push you; they really get the best out of you. My coaches at Pittsburgh really knew how to get the maximum effort out of me. I just had to keep that same work ethicthe one that made me successful in college and high schooland bring it with me to the pros. And so far, I've been pretty successful.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in college?
LF: My first day of training camp was pretty tough, because I had never dealt with the kind of intensity that comes with being a college athlete. The jump to college was actually tougher than the jump to the pros. I remember getting hit my first day of camp. Afterwards, I called my dad and said, "Maybe I'm not cut out for this." He was like, "I don't want hear that kind of stuff out of you," then he stopped answering my phone calls until the end of training camp. I had to get my life together by myself.
But losing my mom my freshman year of college was probably the most difficult thing I had to deal with; it was the biggest thing I ever had to deal with.
What led you to Valley Forge Military Academy after high school?
LF: I needed to go there because I didn't have the academic numbers to register for an athletic scholarship in college. So I spent another year in prep school to take care of thatand that's what I did. I took care of business academically so I could go to college.
Was the opportunity to get your business straight a positive experience?
LF: Uhit was probably the worst year and a half I ever had. But looking back, it was good for me to go there. I learned a lot. I was away from home at a young age, and living away from my family made me grow up a lot faster. The experience there wasn't the greatest, but it built character.
Training & Nutrition
What role do training and nutrition play in your athletic success?
LF: Training is always a huge part of being successful. The way you train, the way you eat and the things you put in your body directly correlate to what you get out of your body. So it's important to put the right things into it.
What were your eating habits in high school and college?
LF: I was like every other high school and college kid. I just did what I wanted to do and ate what I wanted to eat. But when I got to the NFL, I knew it was time for a change. The competition was better, and I needed to take better care of my body, so I could get the maximum results out of it.
Do you look back on anything you ate and say, "What was I thinking?"
LF: The fast food and other stuff every high school and college student ate. I look back and think how crazy it was to eat that way. Now, I maintain a pretty regimented diet, take plenty of protein and make sure I eat the right things to stay healthy.
Who creates your diet?
LF: We have a team nutritionist who comes in every Thursday. She sits down and talks about what we want to do in terms of our health and how best to accomplish those goals.
What role do supplements play in your diet?
LF: I've been a big user of EAS® products, which have been very beneficial for me. I use a lot of the Myoplex® shakes and meal replacements. I use a lot of Muscle Armor®, especially now to recover from injuries. I also use it after I lift weights.
What's life off the field like for you?
LF: I don't really play video games or watch TV, but I do like to go to the movies. I try to read and stay abreast of everything going on in the world.
What are you reading right now?
LF: I'm reading a couple booksFriday Night LightsI'm not getting more knowledgeable from that, but it's stimulating. And, what else am I reading? Oh yeah, Richest Man in Babylon. I'm reading that, too.
Is reading something you've always liked doing?
LF: It was pressed upon me early, so it's something I started doing young. I find enjoyment in it now; and it really stimulates the mind. The mind is a terrible thing to wasteif you don't use it you lose it.
What's your favorite book?
LF: I think pretty much everything I pick up is good. I usually get books people I know have read, so that usually steers me in the right direction.
Anything about you that most people would be surprised to know?
LF: Well, I'm a pretty good chess player, and I'm becoming a pretty good cook. I take a class every Wednesday.
Is anyone on the Cardinals a good chess competitor?
LF: I beat up on Edge a lot. Yeah, I beat up on Edge.
As far as cooking, is there any dish you consider your best right now?
LF: You know, I love my salmon. It's probably my best. I do a honey-glazed salmon that's just to die forI'm actually salivating right now. I might go home and make that up for dinner.
Your younger brother Marcus plays football at Marshall. Have you given him any advice?
LF: I try to stay out of Marcus' stuff. I just want him to enjoy his college experience. It's a blessing to have a scholarship, be able to play and do the thing you love. Just go out there and have a great time, because before you know it, it will be over. The one thing I really miss is college and the experiences with teammates, roommates and everything else. It's just a great experience.
Can you give high school athletes any advice that would help them become more successful?
LF: I see a lot of guys specialize in only one sport in high school, like they only play basketball or baseball or football. In high school, I did everything. I played baseball and basketball and ran track. I even ran cross country and played soccer. I did everything. I think that trying everything gives you a better perspective on all the different sports and also a real appreciation for the one you actually loveonce you figure out which one that is.
When did you identify football as your best sport?
LF: Probably my junior or senior year of high school, when I started getting a lot of attention from major colleges. I was like, "You know what? This is my goal. To become a college football player." And that's what ultimately happened. But I still enjoyed playing other sports with my classmates, and I think it makes you a lot closer to your classmates when you're involved with more things in high school. It also looks great on your resume and applications when you're applying to colleges.
What motivates you now?
LF: To not be mediocre. I want to be the best; I won't stop at anything. I've made a lot of sacrifices in my life to put myself in this position. Now I want to be the best, and I'll do whatever I can within my power. And, God willing, I can stay healthy and go that way.
What do you want to be remembered for?
LF: That I was a good guy, and I was fun to be around. That's pretty much it.
Any aspirations of taking down Jerry Rice's records?
LF: I don't look at it like that. I just want to play ball and have a great time doing it. If any of those kinds of accolades come, they come. But I don't' play for the records; I just want to win and have a good time.
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