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Where Once There Was Larry Fitzgerald, Now Comes Marvin Harrison Jr.

Cardinals rookie wideout understands comparisons given his Hall of Fame father

Marvin Harrison Jr. has spent his life with comparisons over his father Marvin Harrison Sr. (left) but will also draw parallels to all-time Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald (right).
Marvin Harrison Jr. has spent his life with comparisons over his father Marvin Harrison Sr. (left) but will also draw parallels to all-time Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald (right).

When Larry Fitzgerald was drafted, he felt pressure.

It isn't quite the same as Marvin Harrison Jr., who not only has a Hall of Fame wide receiver as a father but comes to a team whose fanbase seeks a new version of their greatest receiver. But it was there in 2004, when Fitzgerald arrived to the Cardinals when they already had a 1,377-yard receiver in Anquan Boldin and also had spent a first-round pick the year before on a wideout (Bryant Johnson) and needed a quarterback of the future when the Cards passed on Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.

"I came in with the idea, 'This is not something we need,'" Fitzgerald told "So I felt a lot of pressure, a lot of stress to live up to what Anquan did. I didn't have as great a rookie year as Anquan had, but it gave me motivation to continue to succeed.

"When you deal with high-level achievers like Marvin, there is already an internal pressure that is way more than any external pressure you could ever give him. His expectation is to put on a gold jacket one day. That's been set in his own house. That's the expectation for playing receiver. Our expectations are going to pale in comparison."

Harrison Jr. hasn't even practiced one day with his new team. Yet being the fourth pick overall and the guy many said was the best player in the draft – Fitzgerald holds that view – will come with a potentially daunting spotlight.

Harrison Jr., who was accompanied by Marvin Harrison Sr., both dad and Hall of Fame Colts receiver, to his introductory press conference, believes he is uniquely equipped to absorb such talk and any parallels drawn between himself and the Cardinals' all-time leading receiver and future Hall of Famer himself.

"I've always had big shoes to fill, and being an Arizona Cardinal, knowing the legacy Fitz had, I'm going to do my best to hopefully out-do him like I'm trying to out-do my Dad," Harrison Jr. said. "They both had Hall of Fame careers. Hopefully I can do the same."

Harrison Jr. has never met Fitzgerald, although he said it was "awesome" Fitzgerald had said before the draft he wanted the Cardinals to take the Ohio State star. That's what Harrison Jr. wanted too.

"I had my fingers crossed for the Arizona Cardinals," he acknowledged.

Marvin Harrison Sr. holds Marvin Harrison Jr. after the Colts won the 2007 AFC title game.
Marvin Harrison Sr. holds Marvin Harrison Jr. after the Colts won the 2007 AFC title game.

Harrison Sr. retired after the 2008 season, when Harrison Jr. was only 6. He remembers bits and pieces of his father's NFL time – winning the Super Bowl in 2007, his Hall of Fame induction – but mostly it is about his dad's knowledge.

"People say when they see him it's the same, like a bigger version of myself," Harrison Sr. said, adding with a smile that his son – at 6-foot-4 four inches taller than his father – is better at contested catches.

All Harrison Sr. wants is for his son to succeed at whatever he does. It happened to be in football, and that was something Harrison Jr. was going to have to deal with from a young age.

"When you see Harrison Jr. on the back of your jersey," the son said, "everyone is expecting big things."

The lessons Marvin Sr. gave could only help Marvin Jr. But the son still had to go out and compete, still had to shine on the biggest college stages, starring at Ohio State.

Bloodlines alone weren't going to make him the fourth pick in the draft.

"People say comparison is the thief of joy," said Cardinals tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who had also been teammates with Harrison Jr. in college. "To him, he's not necessarily comparing himself. I think Marvin is going to become his own player, write his own story. But because he has a Hall of Fame dad, there are a lot of lessons he won't have to learn on his own."

Indeed, Fitzgerald said he wouldn't really have any advice for Harrison Jr. because "the things he's been hearing at home his entire life is exactly what he needs to be."

Like any son, Harrison Jr. would hear but not necessarily listen to his father. When that started to change, when Harrison Sr. finally felt like the son was taking what advice he'd give him to heart, that was when dad started thinking his son could eventually become so good at the sport.

It hasn't stopped, although Harrison Sr. admitted he's going to back off because kids don't want to hear from their dad every day.

"My job is to find the weaknesses, and if I do, we're going to work on them," Harrison Sr. said. "We've had so many conversations over the years, he knows the mission."

At some point, Fitzgerald and Harrison Jr. will meet. From afar, however, Fitzgerald – the ultimate professional – sees a 21-year-old professional who is coming to Arizona.

With all the star receivers that played at Ohio State, Fitzgerald said, Harrison "never complained about touches, he never complained about targets. He just continued to get better and better. You can tell by the way he talks and how thoughtful he is, he's one of those guys whose glass is never full. It's 'How can I get better today?'"

Fitzgerald said Harrison is better than him coming out of college. And, with Fitzgerald's son Devin a top wide receiver recruit in Arizona and about to start visiting schools, Fitzgerald said with a wide smile that hopefully he would soon be doing the same things with his son that Marvin Harrison Sr. has been doing with his.

In the meantime, Harrison Jr. is going to slide into his spot in the lineup and try to make the same kind of impact Fitzgerald once did for the Cardinals.

"I just remember him catching a lot of passes and not dropping many," Harrison Jr. said. "Hopefully I can do the same."


The Cardinals cut two players on Tuesday: wide receiver Kaden Davis and cornerback Quavian White. The moves come after the Cardinals brought in wide receivers Harrison Jr., Tejhaun Palmer and Xavier Weaver on draft weekend, along with cornerbacks Max Melton, Elijah Jones and Jaden Davis. It will give the team two open roster spots.