Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Larry Fitzgerald Jr. is among the best in professional football, and it all started in Minneapolis.
On Monday, the all-pro wide receiver brought a piece of the NFL to the first field that he played on at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Fitzgerald, who lives in Eden Prairie in the offseason, credits the beginning of his success to the adults who believed in him in his youth.
“The coaches that coached me here, I mean, so many people invested in me as a child, and they didn’t have to,” Fitzgerald said.
He recently donated 1,000 brand-new Riddell helmets to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreational Board’s youth football program. They’re the same brand he wears on the field with the Arizona Cardinals.
The football program will also get training from “Heads Up Football,” a program designed to prevent concussions and train players in how to properly tackle.
His mission of “paying it forward” starts with giving kids, like 12-year-old Da’San Frazier, the chance to play in the best equipment available.
“It’s gonna help us because, like, they seem a bit lighter but they have the right cushion,” Frazier said. “It’s gonna prevent us from getting concussions.”
Fitzgerald’s contribution isn’t just materialistic. It also represents an opportunity.
“I just want to make sure that the next group of kids, next generation, you know, is well protected and has as great an opportunity as I had growing up here,” he said.
Lighting that fire for the next generation of superstars has become a passion for Fitzgerald. Along with the recent donation, he coaches an all-pro summer camp for kids, while encouraging young students to set goals – challenging them to set one every day.
He also reminded the students that great effort is always rewarded.
“If you believe it, you can achieve it. Whatever you guys set your mind to, you can accomplish it. I never want you guys to forget that,” he said.