Currently a free agent, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has made more money than any wide receiver in NFL history since being drafted at #3 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. However, were it not for a Minnesota Vikings’ Hall of Famer, Fitzgerald might not have gotten to the path he wound up on.
You see, young Larry Fitzgerald. . .who, as you have probably heard at some point over the last 20 years or so, was a ball boy for the Vikings at one time. . .played his high school ball at Holy Angels Academy in Richfield. However, after his time there was done, he did not meet the academic requirements to play college football and had a bit of an attitude issue.
According to Arizona Republic columnist Bob McManaman, that was the point where Chris Doleman stepped in and talked to Fitzgerald’s parents. Larry Fitzgerald, Sr., was a sportswriter in the Twin Cities at the time, and Doleman recommended to him and his wife, Carol, that they send their son to the Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania. Doleman himself spent a year at Valley Forge in 1981 before moving on to the University of Pittsburgh.
So, off to military school Fitzgerald went, and it apparently turned his life around in pretty short order. Fitzgerald the Younger got himself academically eligible to play at Pitt, starring there for two years before declaring for the 2004 NFL Draft. He’s also widely regarded as one of the best and most genuine people in the NFL and has never exhibited any signs of any of the attitude problems he apparently had when he was in high school.
Fitzgerald told McManaman in an interview, “I can’t tell you how thankful I am for my Valley Forge Military Academy experience. … There’s no way I’d be here if I hadn’t gone there.”
And, if it hadn’t been for Chris Doleman, he might not have gone there at all.
With the “bring Larry Fitzgerald back home” fires being stoked for what seems to be the tenth offseason in a row, it’s cool to see a story like this that reminds us that, no matter who we are, sometimes we all need a push in the right direction.