In the 2008 season, he was a part of a trio of teammates who each gained 1000 yards receiving. His 1431 yards not only led the way for his team, but also for the entire NFL. His team barely made the post-season with a 9-7 record, yet the Arizona Cardinals advanced all the way to their first appearance in a Super Bowl. During that run, he continued to excel, setting post-season records for touchdowns (7), receptions (30), and receiving yards (546). After the Super Bowl, the four-time Pro Bowler became the MVP of the 2009 Pro Bowl game. If he stays in the pros as long as Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald is on a pace to eclipse the career marks for receptions, yards, and touchdown the NFL great amassed in his twenty seasons in the league. Fitzgerald, along with Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, comprise a receiving trio that has been compared favorably to the Redskins triple threat of Art Monk, Ricky Sanders, and Gary Clark from two decades earlier.
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Fitzgerald joined the Cardinals in 2004, when the team drafted him in the first round (third overall). The 2003 Walter Camp, Paul Warfield, and Biletnikoff Award winner had a standout career at the University Of Pittsburgh, where he was an All-American as a sophomore. There, he set the Panthers' record for career touchdowns (34), and became the first receiver in school history to have consecutive 1000 yard receiving seasons. Those were his only years on the college gridiron, as he excercised his option to go pro. Fitzgerald had a solid rookie season with eight touchdowns and nearly 800 receiving yards, followed by a 2005 campaign where he led the NFL in catches (103) for over 1400 yards. In 2008, Fitzgerald led the NFL in receiving yardage (1431), and touchdowns (12). The 2009 season marked the fourth time where he has surpassed the 1000 yard mark with his 97 catches. His thirteen touchdowns set his personal best as a pro.
One of the many rookie card releases came in the 2004 Topps base brand set. It's a set whose most prominent rookies are quarterbacks with Super Bowl victories on their resumes - Ben Roethlisberger (#311) and Eli Manning (#350). Just as he is one of the leaders of his team at his position, Fitzgerald is the leading receiver in the set in terms of value. The Fitzgerald rookie card is #360 in that season's 385-card basic set. Its value, according to the Beckett Football Card Price Guide (26th edition), is a modest $5.
The 2004 Topps cards are some of the better-looking gridiron efforts from the company in the 2000s. The card has a white background on both sides, with a design that gives the card a poster-like quality. The top of the card has the team name printed across the top in silver foil. Red lines in Cardinals colors separate the card's photo from the top and the bottom. Fitzgerald's name and position appear in scoreboard-style lettering across the bottom, and also in silver foil. The photo itself is a neat one, with Fitzgerald looking the football into his hands. The back includes the helmet logo of the Cardinals, as well as stats, other facts, and expectations about him. Fitzgerald has not only met the expectations of his lofty draft status, but some in the know about the game think he has become the standard of excellence at his position. The only problems I have with the card is that the photo has more background than player, and that the color combination on the front can make the card hard to read from certain angles.
Fitzgerald is not the speediest receiver on his team, but he uses his height and his hands to get an edge over many a defender. He has also been a durable player, missing just four contests since his rookie year. He has been one of the main reasons Arizona has gone from a perennial also-ran to a team that reached its first championship match in over six decades. As a teen, Larry Fitzgerald got to be a part of the NFL in a different way, serving as a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings. These days, instead of serving up the football to others, Kurt Warner has served up many a ball to a man who frustrates defenders almost every week.
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