August 30, 2018 / 8:48 PM / 24 days ago

Cardinals' Fitzgerald on McCain: 'He was the epitome of toughness'

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald eulogized Sen. John McCain Thursday, telling stories of the man who became his close friend despite their differences.

Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, gives a tribute during memorial service for Senator John McCain at North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 30, 2018. Matt York/Pool via REUTERS

“Many people might wonder what a young African-American kid from Minnesota and a highly decorated Vietnam hero turned United States senator might have in common,” Fitzgerald, 34, said. “Well, I thought of a few. I’m black. He was white. I’m young. He wasn’t so young. He lived with physical limitations brought on by war. I’m a professional athlete. He ran for president. I run out of bounds. He was the epitome of toughness, and I do everything I can to avoid contact. I have flowing locks, and, well, he didn’t.”

Fitzgerald was one of four speakers to offer eulogies Thursday at a memorial service in Phoenix for McCain, who died of brain cancer last Saturday at 81. All were friends from different avenues of McCain’s life. Fitzgerald spoke immediately before former Vice President Joe Biden, who became one of McCain’s closest friends when they served together in the U.S. Senate.

McCain represented Arizona in the Senate from 1987 until his death.

He was a passionate Arizona Cardinals fan, but Fitzgerald was an even bigger fan of him. As he got to know McCain and learned about what the senator had endured as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, Fitzgerald became motivated to travel there himself.

“I wanted to see the places where the will of John McCain was tested and forged,” Fitzgerald said. “I saw the lake. I walked the steps. I sat in the cell. And the ordeal that my friend survived became all the more real.”

Cindy McCain, the senator’s widow, asked Fitzgerald to speak at the service. Two other Phoenix-area athletes — former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez and former Coyotes forward Shane Doan — were pallbearers.

Another memorial service for McCain will be held Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will speak. McCain’s burial will be Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.

—Field Level Media

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