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Steigerwald: Larry Fitzgerald, American Role Model



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.)

Sports could use a few thousand more guys like Larry Fitzgerald. A few weeks ago, when he paid his dying friend John McCain a visit, he was asked to be one of the speakers at his memorial service.

Fitzgerald will speak tomorrow.

Nobody should be surprised that McCain was impressed by Fitzgerald. He’s been impressing people since his first day on the Pitt campus.

Soft spoken.
Mature beyond his years.

He’s also the best catcher of a football I’ve ever seen. He made the best catch I’ve ever seen and you won’t find it on YouTube. It was during a practice on the South Side. Pitt should be proud of this guy and do everything possible to keep his name associated with the program. There’s not a better role model for kids anywhere in American sports.

No touchdown dance.
No hide and seek.
Just hands the ball to the official.
Stands for the National Anthem.
No rap videos.
No suspensions.
No arrests.

Acts like, you know, a grown up.

How many NFL players would have the intellectual curiosity to do what Fitzgerald did after he became friends with a U.S. Senator? Everybody knows the story of McCain being shot down in Vietnam and spending more than five years as a prisoner of war. Fitzgerald heard that story.

Fitzgerald went to Vietnam.

He made a point to visit the cell where McCain was held. How many NFL players do you think could find Vietnam on a map?

Some guys spend their money on cars and jewelry. Fitzgerald has visited 97 countries. He says he travels mostly for pleasure but also for education. In a Christmas message last December he said, “I’ve been to a lot of the big battle sites from World War II. I’ve been to Normandy Beach. I’ve been to Iwo Jima. I’ve been to concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau.”

Did I mention that he stands for the National Anthem?

How about this: “When I went to Vietnam, I rode a bike for much of the 700 miles from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city, just to see how the people lived.”

Seven-hundred miles on a bike? In Vietnam? Who does that?

He’ll do Pitt and Pittsburgh proud when he speaks at his friend’s memorial service on Thursday.

But then, he’s always done that.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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