Widely considered one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, Larry Fitzgerald Jr. has some particularly impressive career stats. In 17 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzgerald racked up 121 touchdowns, 17,492 receiving yards, was selected for the Pro Bowl 11 times, and the list goes on.
But doing great things doesn’t necessarily make for a great person – that was the message the Twin Cities native had for scholars at Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas.
“Catching touchdowns, running companies, recording songs … might be a sign that you're great at doing something, but greatness is not just about doing. It's about being,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald shared his personal story and words of encouragement as part of the inaugural Dougherty Family College Speaker Series.
The Minnesota all-state wide receiver grew up in Minneapolis and played high school football at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield. Now retired from pro ball, Fitzgerald spends much of his time working to support youth in the community that raised him.
The Larry Fitzgerald Foundation has refurbished Minneapolis basketball courts and provided new helmets for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation football program. Fitzgerald is also a prominent supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities. And in 2016, he was awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, the league’s highest honor for charitable work.
Whether it’s for his resume on or off the field, Fitzgerald had quite a few fans in the DFC audience.
“When I see someone like Larry who is the very best at what they do, it motivates me to be the very best at what I do,” scholar Truth Moore said. “I just felt very grateful to have this opportunity today to talk to him and learn from him.”
More than 95% of enrolled scholars at Dougherty Family College are Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Career and academic success coach Jessica Castellanos-Perez was excited for her students to learn from someone who has walked a similar path.
“To hear these vital lessons of how to achieve success in your life from a person of color, from someone who perhaps reflects their own lives, it was an awesome moment,” Castellanos-Perez said. “I hope it inspires our scholars to really think about their own priorities and values moving forward.”
Fitzgerald challenged scholars to serve others and stand for what’s right, acknowledging that the success of our future will depend on their leadership.
“You guys are going to change this world,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of animosity in our world right now, but looking around this building, seeing your faces, it gives me hope. It gives me the belief that the world is going to be a better place because of people like you.”
The Dougherty Family College Speaker Series kicked off last month with a visit by businesswoman and philanthropist Marilyn Carlson Nelson. Additional speakers are in the works for this winter and spring.