Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald scores a touchdown on the 1,200th reception of his career last weekend against the Rams.
Larry Fitzgerald hauled in the 15-yard touchdown pass last Sunday and, as he does, quickly tossed the ball to the official.
This time it was a mistake.
The catch happened to be Fitzgerald's 1,200th of his career – he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach that plateau – and the wide receiver most definitely wanted a memento.
"I'm so used to just flipping it, and I realized I probably should keep that one," Fitzgerald said. "I'm a creature of habit."
There figure to be more souvenirs Fitzgerald will want to keep. The 34-year-old is having another excellent season as he moves through his certain-to-be Hall of Fame career, ranking among the NFL leaders in catches and yards. But because of his tenure in the game, those plays not only are notching stats for 2017, but on all-time NFL lists.
Last week, Fitzgerald surpassed Isaac Bruce for fourth place all-time in receiving yards. Now at 15,267 yards for his career, he needs only 26 yards against the Titans Sunday to surpass Randy Moss – one of
Fitzgerald's idols and mentors as he grew up as a Vikings ballboy when Moss was playing there.
Already, Fitzgerald had become only the second player in NFL history with at least 15,000 receiving yards with one team (Jerry Rice with the 49ers was the other), and he long moved into third place in all-time receptions. His 82 receptions, for 878 yards and five touchdowns, this season keeps him comfortably ahead of fourth-place Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (1,140 catches).
"It's unbelievable to watch, just the way he takes care of himself, the way he prepares, the way he asks questions in meetings like he's a young guy still," quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "Just the way he approaches work each and every day is really a great thing for the younger guys to see. If they can see a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a guy who's been doing it at the highest level for that extended period of time, he's just such a great example each and every day."
Fitzgerald even got a smaller record late in the Rams game, making four receptions in the final seven plays to give him 176 catches all-time against the Rams – the most ever one player has had against one franchise. The former record-holder was Rice, who had 175 catches against the Falcons in his (much-longer) career.
"It was just one of those situations I was just going to feed him until he didn't want it anymore," Gabbert said.
Fitzgerald recently signed a contract extension for 2018, and while he has not yet said he will
definitely return next season, his play would be a reason to come back. He continues to climb the all-time charts, and with another good year next year, he will be second in both receptions and yards in NFL history, behind only Rice.
Rice's numbers are likely too large to catch. The fact Rice had a 92-catch, 1,211-yard, 7-touchdown season at age 40 underscores his long-term greatness. But Fitzgerald still engenders huge respect across the league. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was asked this week about dealing with Seahawks Pro Bowl receiver Doug Baldwin. "No disrespect to (Baldwin), he's a good player," Ramsey told reporters. "But he ain't Larry Fitzgerald."
Fitzgerald has said he recalls every catch he makes, although he said the reason he knew about 1,200 coming up was because he was told ahead of time how many were needed to get there and "it doesn't take rocket science to count how many catches you have in a game."
Understanding he has reached the yards to beat Moss on Sunday might be tricky in the course of a drive. But that might be one of the more important marks he has reached.
"I love Randy," Fitzgerald said. "He taught me this game. I grew up idolizing him, watching him, trying to emulate what he was doing every single day."
Fitzgerald smiled when he talked about Moss letting him use his BMW to take to prom, or invite Fitzgerald to his house to play basketball, or give Fitzgerald cleats and gloves to wear in his high school games.
That stuff is as unforgettable as the records.
"Anytime you can have your name mentioned in the same sentence as Randy Moss, you've got to be happy," Fitzgerald said.
More images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the Week 13 matchup