Larry Fitzgerald Talks Cardinals And Giving Back To Military Families Even In A Season With Limited Fans

As much as Larry Fitzgerald is known for his longevity in the NFL and as one of the greatest wide receivers in league history, his reputation was equally built on his genuine care for the communities he’s part of. From Minnesota where he grew up to the University of Pittsburgh to Arizona where he’s played his entire career, Fitzgerald has ingratiated himself with fans in a real way.

That hasn’t changed during an NFL season in which stadium seats are sparsely filled and fan connection is harder to come by. Fitzgerald will join former ESPN personality Trey Wingo in a “Salute To Service” virtual panel on Tuesday evening in partnership with USAA, the financial services company dedicated to military members and their families. USAA customers will participate in an exclusive Q&A with Fitzgerald in the second of five such events throughout the NFL season. Participants can sign up and ask questions on the company’s website.

Fitzgerald spoke with Uproxx about the event, his commitment to servicemen and women this NFL season, and the Arizona Cardinals’ season so far.

The first thing I wanted to know is what it’s been like trying to connect with fans digitally this year as athletes and leagues have had to adapt to a new reality?

First off I want to thank USAA for giving me the platform in the first place to be able to connect with some of our service men and women, and it’s a pleasure to be able to work with such a wonderful organization that takes advantage of the opportunity (to connect with fans). This has been such an unbelievable year in terms of changes and differences, and being able to do things virtually, it’s been a little bit easier.

This would (normally) require me to drive out to Luke Air Force Base, you would have to organize a big auditorium to be able to fit everyone all in one place, and now if you have Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to connect and get people together. It brings people together from longer distances, it’s pretty easy to organize, so I think it’s a great workaround. Obviously, I would love to be in there shaking hands and taking pictures with the young people and really look them in the eye and tell them thank you. That would be more meaningful to me, but unfortunately we just don’t have that ability, so this is the next best thing, and USAA’s doing a great job bringing everybody together, so I’m really looking forward to the Salute to Service virtual lounge.

What excites you most about the work USAA does and the opportunity to give back your time and energy to these folks who have served in uniform and care so much about the NFL?

For as much as the armed forces do for us as a country, it’s great that USAA has been able to do something for them as well. Whether it’s insurance or banking or so many different platforms, they’re able to support military families around the world and they do a wonderful job. I’m really honored to be able to work with such a wonderful organization to put this together.

I’m excited to be able to share some of my stories, hear some of theirs, and it’s going to be a great time.

We’re talking after a Cardinals loss I realize, but you guys are off to a good start as a team at 5-3, your offense is clicking pretty well. What would you say has been the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s team?

We’re more mature. We have a year under our belt in this system, and that has given guys a lot of confidence. Our quarterback (Kyler Murray) is continuing to get better, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the league, and whenever you have somebody at that position who can do what he does, it’s going to give you a higher chance to be able to win and be competitive every game. It’s been fun to be able to go through the season. Defensively, we’ve really improved, so it’s been going in the right direction and hopefully we can continue to do that.

I know you probably get asked about this often but I’ll indulge you again if you don’t mind. Just give me a sense of how special it has been to work alongside such a talented receiver like De’Andre Hopkins. Have there been any surprises about having a guy like that in your building this year, anything that he’s done that impressed you or surprised you now that you’ve been around him a few months?

When you get a chance to watch somebody great, even from your perspective as a journalist, you can read somebody’s columns or listen to somebody’s radio show, but when you get a chance to sit down and really watch it live in-person, you have a greater appreciation for the skill set.

Most of the time when you’re watching a guy, you see him on the highlights, the touchdowns, the long plays, but to be able to see him do it consistently, day-in and day-out in practice and how competitive he is, how great of a teammate he is and all these things on a daily basis, it gives you a greater appreciation for why he is who he is and makes you thankful he can be a teammate of yours and that you get a chance to learn from him.

Again, I always hate to talk to guys after tough losses, but you’ve seen all sorts of different seasons play out, so where’s your head at as you think about the rest of this year? What should Cardinals fans and NFL fans expect from this team going forward?

Guys are going to compete, work hard every single day, improve. Wins and losses happen, it’s life, but we have to get prepared for a really good football team in Buffalo next week. That’s where my mindset is. Make sure we clean up the mistakes that we made against the Dolphins and that we don’t make those same mistakes (this week).

You have to be able to let the losses go, let the wins go, and always be looking forward to the next opportunity.