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Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Updated: January 15, 12:40 PM ET
From ball boy to NFL star, Fitzgerald makes most of opportunity

By Mike Tulumello

Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald has a chance to become one of the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history. Fitzgerald entered the 2008 season with 330 career receptions -- more than the NFL's career receptions leader, Jerry Rice, had at the same point in his career.

Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald used a lot of talent and a little bit of luck to become one of the best players in the NFL.

Of course, Fitzgerald never saw this coming back in high school. As a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings up through his senior year, Fitzgerald got an inside look at the talent it takes to be one of the league's best by watching Randy Moss and Cris Carter.

Fitzgerald took those lessons to the field at the Academy of Holy Angels (Richfield, Minn.), catching 73 passes for 1,254 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior before spending a post-grad year at Valley Forge Military Academy (Wayne, Pa.) to prepare for college ball at Pittsburgh.

ESPN RISE: What was the Academy of Holy Angels like?
Larry Fitzgerald: It was a phenomenal school. The teachers really cared about you so much. They'd do anything they had to do for you to be successful. The sports were quality. All the coaches really cared about the players. I still talk to my coaches there -- all five of them. They don't just care about you as an athlete. When I lost my mom in college, I can't tell you how many people were at the funeral. To have that outpouring of support from people like that means a lot to me. We had a great bond in my class. We did some good things. We never won a state championship, but I loved playing with those guys. I still talk to those guys. The love and passion the guys in high school play with -- it's not about money or fame. It's just about the love of the sport. That's what makes high school so pure.

ESPN RISE: Were you prepared academically entering high school?
Fitzgerald: Man, I don't know. I went to a really good private grade school. I graduated in a class of seven people. Probably at least 70 percent of the kids who graduate from Holy Angels go to college. It's a really prestigious school. Now the tuition has gone up so much. My brother and I got scholarships. It was fabulous.

ESPN RISE: Did your parents push to go to a private school or did you want to go there?
Fitzgerald: I always wanted to go to public school. Most of my friends were in public school. I wanted to go with them. I just can't thank my parents enough for always keeping their foot on my neck and not allowing me to surround myself with people who didn't have my best interests at heart. At Holy Angels, I was around not only teachers, but kids who weren't going to do drugs, weren't going to drink -- they weren't going to do things that would jeopardize their future.

ESPN RISE: Did you realize in high school you might be good enough to go pro in football?
Fitzgerald: I didn't know if I was good enough. There are so many things that have to go in your favor to make it to this level. You have to have coaches that care about you. You have to be talented. You have to stay healthy. You got to have a little bit of luck on your side.

Mike Tulumello covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.