John McCain was well known for his support of Phoenix’s professional sports teams during his time as a U.S. senator from Arizona, but his bond with Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was especially strong. McCain invited Fitzgerald on a tour of the U.S. Capitol. Fitzgerald traveled to Vietnam to visit the site where McCain’s Navy plane was shot down in 1967 and the jail cell where he was held as a prisoner of war for nearly six years.
“I took a photo of myself next to his flight suit, the suit he was wearing when he got shot down,” Fitzgerald wrote late last year in Sports Illustrated. “So powerful. So meaningful. Those images will never leave my mind.”
Fitzgerald marked McCain’s death Saturday with a nice remembrance on Twitter:
On Thursday, Fitzgerald will be one of six speakers at McCain’s funeral. As told by ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss, he was invited by Cindy McCain, wife of the late senator, to speak at the service a couple of months ago.
“It’s truly one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to talk about somebody who served his country so passionately and had been so dedicated to policies of this nation,” Fitzgerald told Weinfuss. “So, I was really taken aback by it.”
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Fitzgerald said it might be tough for him to get in everything he has to say about McCain in the five to six minutes allotted to him.
“Fortunately, I’ve had some time to get prepared and put some of my thoughts on paper,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve had to kind of shorten it down. You have a short window. It’s tough to be able to get everything you want to say. How do you accurately be able to give somebody their due justice who served the United States for 60-plus years, I mean, dedicated his entire life.
“You think about those 60-plus years and everything he’s done, from his time served as a POW to all the years in the Senate, the things he’s done here for the great state of Arizona — and to be able to do that in five or six minutes is extremely difficult. I’m going to do the best I can and try to honor him for the wonderful man that he is.”
Two other athletes best known for their time in Arizona will join Fitzgerald at the service, with former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez and former Coyotes forward Shane Doan serving as pallbearers.
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