July 1, 2013
PITTSBURGH--One of the most decorated receivers in the history of college football, Larry Fitzgerald received yet another honor this evening with the announcement that his No. 1 jersey will be retired by the University of Pittsburgh.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson surprised Fitzgerald by revealing the honor at the university's Atlantic Coast Conference Celebration on Pittsburgh's North Shore. Fitzgerald, who starred at Pitt during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, is now a perennial Pro Bowl receiver with the Arizona Cardinals.
Fitzgerald becomes the ninth Pitt player to have his jersey retired. He joins a legendary list of Panthers that also includes end Mike Ditka (No. 89, 1958-60), running back Tony Dorsett (No. 33, 1973-76), offensive lineman Bill Fralic (No. 79, 1981-84), running back Marshall Goldberg (No. 42, 1936-38), defensive end Hugh Green (No. 99, 1977-80), quarterback Dan Marino (No. 13, 1979-82), offensive lineman Mark May (No. 73, 1977-80) and linebacker Joe Schmidt (No. 65, 1950-52).
"Larry Fitzgerald is the greatest receiver in Pitt history and is well on his way to future Hall of Fame enshrinement in Canton," Pederson said. "In addition to his exceptional football talents, Larry has always been one of the University of Pittsburgh's finest representatives. As thrilling as he has been as a player, Larry has been even more inspiring off the field for his incredible commitment to philanthropic causes. We are proud to appropriately honor Larry by adding his Pitt jersey to a legendary list that includes Ditka, Dorsett, Fralic, Goldberg, Green, Marino, May and Schmidt."
Despite playing only two collegiate seasons, Fitzgerald left Pitt as one of the most accomplished players in school history.
In 2003 he was a virtually unstoppable offensive weapon, compiling 92 catches for 1,672 yards (18.2 avg.) and 22 touchdowns. Facing double and even triple coverage each week, Fitzgerald still led the nation in receiving yards per game (128.62 avg.) and TD catches.
Fitzgerald was named the 2003 Walter Camp Player of the Year, becoming the first sophomore to earn that prestigious honor, and also won the Biletnikoff Award as the country's top receiver. He was unanimously selected a first team All-American.
In the 2003 Heisman Trophy balloting, Fitzgerald finished a strong second to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, losing by just 128 points. Fitzgerald carried three voting regions, an unprecedented achievement for a sophomore. It was the highest Heisman finish by a wide receiver since Michigan's Desmond Howard won the award in 1991.
In just 26 collegiate games, Fitzgerald totaled 161 catches for 2,677 yards (16.6 avg.) and a Pitt-record 34 touchdowns. He caught a touchdown in an amazing 18 consecutive games to set an NCAA record. In total, Fitzgerald set or tied four NCAA marks, eight Big East records and 11 Pitt marks.
Athlon Sports recently named Fitzgerald the greatest receiver of the BCS era (since 1998).
In announcing his intention to enter the NFL Draft on Feb. 9, 2004, Fitzgerald said, "The University of Pittsburgh has been a special place to me and I will be forever indebted to the many people who helped me as both a person and a player. It has been an honor and privilege to be a Panther. I will always work to represent this school as best I can in whatever I do in life."
The third overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, Fitzgerald has established himself as the game's elite pass catcher. He has played in seven Pro Bowls and holds virtually every receiving record in Cardinals franchise history. This past season Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 700 career receptions and joined Randy Moss as the only players in league history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards before the age of 30.
Fitzgerald has been equally prolific in his philanthropic efforts and community work, both in the United States and throughout the world. In August 2012, he was honored with Pro Football Weekly's Humanitarian of the Year Award for his outstanding community and charitable contributions. Through his two foundations -- the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund and the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund -- he has helped thousands by providing funds for kids and families in crisis. To honor his late mother, Carol, he has been heavily involved in furthering breast cancer awareness and research.
He has also served as a spokesman for the NFL's A Crucial Catch campaign each of the last three seasons, donating funds for each reception and TD reception during the month of October.
Globally, Fitzgerald has done extensive work with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, providing hearing aids for those in need throughout Africa. He has traveled to Ethiopia with good friend and former teammate Anquan Boldin on behalf of Oxfam America, helping work on irrigation systems and digging wells in local communities. As part of his strong support of the military, Fitzgerald has helped raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, which benefits injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces. He also joined other NFL players on a USO Tour of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009.
A native of Minneapolis, Minn., Fitzgerald was a two-time first-team all-state receiver at Academy of the Holy Angels. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy for one year (2001-02) before matriculating to Pitt. His father, Larry Sr., is a well-known media personality covering the Minnesota sports scene.
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