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Steigerwald: Classy Larry Fitzgerald Still the Gold Standard for Receivers



Pitt / NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald gets ready to pass a football at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, on Wednesday, June 21. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Larry Reid Jr.)

It’s been a long time since Pitt had a Top 10 football program but it keeps cranking out Top 10 NFL players. Larry Fitzgerald, who’s the best catcher of a football that I have ever seen and made the best catch I ever saw, is a top three – as in number three all time in NFL receptions- and he’s probably still in the top five of current NFL receivers.

LeSean McCoy is one of the three best running backs in the league right now. He finished sixth in rushing last season with the Buffalo Bills, but had the highest average yards per carry at 5.4.

That’s a Hall of Fame number.

Tony Dorsett is the only Pitt back that I’ve seen who was better.

Steelers fans like to call Le’Veon Bell the best back in the league but he’s no better than McCoy and it would be interesting to see what their numbers would look like if they switched teams.

There are people who will tell you that Aaron Donald of the Rams is the best defensive player in the NFL. Football Focus, a group of geeks who grade every player on every play, declared him the best player in the NFL the last two seasons.

He should get a lot more attention now that the Rams have moved to Los Angeles.

It wasn’t long ago that Darrelle Revis was the best cornerback in the NFL.

So, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi may not have a winning tradition to sell yet but he sure can sell Pitt’s tradition of turning out NFL Hall of Famers.

And there is no better guy for Narduzzi to use as an example than Fitzgerald. It’s hard to believe that he’s in his 14th training camp this Summer with the Arizona Cardinals. His numbers and his highlight reel are all anybody needs to see what a great player he has been, but he’s also one of the classiest players in American professional sports.

No twerking for him. After a touchdown catch he flips the ball to the official and trots off the field.

When it comes to how he handles himself on and off the field, he’s the Sidney Crosby of the NFL. He should have won the. Heisman Trophy in 2003 when he caught 92 passes for over 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns.

He was the best player in college football and it wasn’t close.

At his pre-camp press conference on Sunday Fitzgerald, who is 33, was asked if this would be his last season. He said he wasn’t sure but he felt good and he’d let everybody know when that changes.

He also said he’ll leave the game the way he came in – with class and humility. No press conference. No drama. “That’s not how I am. I’m just one player out of 1,600 in the National Football League and it’s a lot bigger than me. It’s never going to be like that.”

He says he wants to win a Super Bowl ring and that’s what keeps him coming back.

It’s amazing and a little sad that more players haven’t learned from Fitzgerald. So many – especially wide receivers who think being a diva goes with the territory – haven’t figured out that Fitzgerald has drawn more positive attention to himself by doing nothing after a touchdown catch than he could ever have gotten by twerking or coming up with a lame, contrived dance.

And about that greatest catch I ever saw: You had to be there. You won’t find it on any Pitt or Cardinals highlight reel. It happened in practice at the Steelers/Pitt complex on the South Side.

Fitzgerald ran a deep sideline route. He was running full speed looking back for the ball over his left shoulder, with the sideline on his right. As he bent his head back looking for the ball to drop in over his head on the left side, it came down nose first on his right side and he spotted it at the last second, just flicked his right hand out and, in full stride, made a one handed catch just a few inches from his knee.

It drew a loud response from his teammates, coaches and the media but nobody made big deal about it.

I’ve never seen a more amazing catch.

Pitt and the NFL may never see a classier guy.

I’ll be rooting for him to have his last catch be for the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Followed by a flip to the referee.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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