Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten have appeared in 10 Pro Bowls each.

Among the league’s all-time leaders, Fitzgerald ranks third in catches (1,134) and ninth in yards (14,484) over 14 seasons. Witten is fourth in catches (1,106) and 26th in yards (12,044) in 15 seasons.

Together they’ve combined for 26,528 receiving yards — the equivalent of 15.07 miles.

They’re both all but locks for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and on Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium, they will play against each other when the Arizona Cardinals take on the Dallas Cowboys (8:30 ET, ESPN).

Here are their first-person accounts about each other:

Jason Witten on Larry Fitzgerald

“The first time I really got to know Larry Fitzgerald was at the Pro Bowl in 2005 in Hawaii. We were just two young guys at the time, looking at some of the stars of the game, probably wondering what the heck was going on.

“But I remember we were talking about route running and how you attack and use leverage and what you do on the stem of your routes to get open. We play different positions, but I figured out quickly that we see the game in a similar way. It’s an art to running routes and a lot of times people just see matchups and looks but don’t understand the work that goes into getting open. Larry’s done that for a long time.

“There’s a lot of talk about sustained success. We see it with a number of guys across the league nowadays, but there are very few people who have done it as well as Larry for as long as Larry. He set that standard early in his career and he has never come off it. He led the league in catches last year in his 13th season. Think about that. He did it when we first got to know each other in 2005, and he did it again last year. That’s sustained success.

“Early in my career I put together a goal-line study and there is No. 11 in a three-point stance in the wing. How many teams ask a wide receiver to line up in a three-point stance? It might not have been the best stance, but he fought and the result of the play is what mattered. That says a lot about who he is and what he embodies over the course of 14 years.

“A few years ago Coach Garrett used Larry as an example to our team of the way to go about your business. You know you’re doing something right when an opposing coach is pointing out the way you’ve acted over the course of a career.

“Last year he was named the co-winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award with Eli Manning. I was fortunate enough to win that award in 2012. I remember talking with Larry after he won the award and told him how proud I was of him. It’s an honor to win it but it’s really what he’s been about for his entire career.

“I truly believe your legacy as a person is more important than your legacy as a player. When you are mentioned with Walter Payton, it doesn’t get any better than that.

“I don’t know how many more times we will get to play against each other, but I just want him to know how much I respect him as a player and as a person for what he’s done in this game.

“We hear a lot about what’s wrong with our game, but Larry is everything that is right about our game.”

Larry Fitzgerald on Jason Witten

“The first thing I think about Jason is his character, what he stands for. He’s just such a special man. I think any young person in this league would look to him as somebody that you want to model your career after professionally and personally.

“I got a chance to get to know him really well a few years ago when we were both up for the Man of the Year. I got a chance to see him again this year. He was very nice to me. I look forward to playing against him, as always.

“Nobody is ever going to be able to top [the play when Witten had a 53-yard reception after his helmet was knocked off in 2007] because we would never be allowed to. He’s definitely tougher than me because I would’ve got my butt down. You got guys flying around trying to take you out.

“That’s how tough he is. That’s why he’s been able to play 15 years at a Hall of Fame level.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *