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Phoenix Forward magazine

NFL pro Larry Fitzgerald has a different goal

Larry Fitzgerald

Along with scoring touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals and traveling the world on exotic adventures, All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has another important role: college student.

Even with an eight-year contract that he signed in 2011, Fitzgerald remains passionate about his education. He’s taking online classes in the communication program at University of Phoenix to earn his bachelor’s degree, and to honor a special request.

“The biggest difference it would make in my life is that it would fulfill a promise I made to my late mother,” Fitzgerald says, noting that she died in 2003. “I remember my parents showing me their degrees all the time and motivating us to pursue higher education. I would like to be able to have that same influence on my son.”

Fitzgerald, who left the University of Pittsburgh after his sophomore season to enter the NFL draft, says that working toward his degree is a balancing act that’s difficult, but worthwhile.

I remember my parents showing me their degrees … and motivating [me]. I would like … to have that same influence on my son.

“You have to carve out time in your day, and that requires a lot more discipline,” he says. “But I see the light at the end of the tunnel now; I have only a year and a half left. When you see that finish line, it inspires you to run a little harder.”

For a media-savvy athlete like Fitzgerald, a communication degree seems like a natural fit. In addition, he has a role model in his father, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., who has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years.

“I’ve picked up a lot of skills by osmosis just being around my dad, reading his articles and interviews,” the younger Fitzgerald says. “I also felt communication was a really broad field, and you can pursue a lot of different careers with that degree.”

He already has showcased some of his communication abilities in a variety of media outlets, including his weekly appearance on the “Monday Night Football” pregame radio show, his popular Twitter® account and serving as a judge for the 2013 Miss USA pageant.

“With social media, everyone is kind of their own journalist now,” he notes. “News is available at the drop of a hat.”

The job of an NFL player requires significant time and energy. Fitzgerald remains committed to his coursework, even while traveling far from the confines of University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals’ home turf.

“I’ve logged on probably in more countries than anyone else at University of Phoenix this year,” he says. “In Antarctica, I was there for 10 days, and the Internet was $5 a minute. I got a bill for $1,500 all in the pursuit of higher education.”

Fitzgerald says he knows an athlete has few guarantees, and “the length of your career can be short-lived.

“A degree gives you a fallback plan,” he believes. “I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll do after football, but I know I’ll use the skills I learned while obtaining my … degree.”

 

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