Once upon a time, Larry Fitzgerald would run off the field as soon as the final second ticked off the clock. He would race to the locker room and shower before the head coach would even gather up his players for the post-game speech, and most times leave before the head coach was done with his post-game press conference with the media.
“If I did my job, I didn’t really have much to talk about,” Fitzgerald said.
Now, Fitzgerald often meets up with opposing players after the game is over. He is more deliberate in the locker room; he comes to the podium to talk to the media, win or lose, knowing he is — as superstar and a captain — one of the spokesmen for the team. It’s just one example of his transformation over the years, and while that part of it doesn’t necessarily impact on the field, it shows how Fitzgerald has developed as a leader and a teammate and why what once seemed improbable is now important.
Even Fitz will admit he didn’t want to be a leader when he first came into the league.
“The second year with coach Whiz, even late in that first year with him and that coaching staff in ’07, we won those last two games to finish 8-8 and that’s the first time … 8-8 wasn’t successful by any stretch of the imagination but it was better than before,” Fitzgerald said. “It really showed me when a team is playing together and is on the same page, great things can happen.
“The next year and went to the playoffs, and that’s where I really think I made my transformation, where it is bigger than you, what you are able to do week in and week out. If you are a good player and your team isn’t having success, it really doesn’t mean anything.”
Without that transformation, Fitzgerald doesn’t command the ridiculous contract he has now. A player making that kind of money has to bring more to the table than just excellent play, although that doesn’t hurt either — and as coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out, it carries over in Fitzgerald’s leadership ability.
“I think that other players, when you see the production that he has, when you see the way he works on the field everyday, you have that natural leadership ability (and) Larry has gotten a lot better is bringing the younger guys along and talking to them and taking that type of role,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s an important part of building chemistry and camaraderie.
“When it is clutch time, you have to guys that you can count on, that, as they’d like to say, have each other’s backs. … When you think about those types of things, you can’t let Larry down. He’s made those plays, so we have to carry those standards. It goes a long way.”
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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