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Fitzgerald's world travels chance to help others

| Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 9:38 p.m.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is back from his latest globe-trotting adventure, this one to Southeast Asia. He jokes that the only place he's never been is Antarctica, and he plans to visit there 'late next February.' (AP Photo/Paul Connors, File)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald is back from his latest globe-trotting adventure, this one to Southeast Asia. He jokes that the only place he's never been is Antarctica, and he plans to visit there “hopefully in late February.”

But while the Arizona Cardinals' star wide receiver's travels are certainly something he truly enjoys , he says it's also given him a chance to see just how severe the struggles are for poverty stricken people around the world, and just how good most Americans have it.

“Some of it's leisure, some of it is just to get away,” he said. “A lot of it is just to try to give back. We're extremely fortunate. I'm not talking about me or football players, as Americans we're fortunate to be able to turn the water on every day, be able to drink clean, healthy water and healthy food. There are a lot of places in the world where they don't have that same comfort.”

Fitzgerald, whose main charity in the United States is to combat breast cancer — the disease that claimed his mother — has formed a foundation with good friend and former teammate Anquan Boldin to help drought-stricken Africa. He says on this year's trip, with stops in Malaysia and Thailand, he helped the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which distributes hearing aids to the poor around the world.

His trip to Africa a year ago left him stunned.

“You have no idea,” he said. “People here complain it's 108 (degrees). It's 108 in Ethiopia but they have no water. They haven't had a raindrop in a year — a year.”

Fitzgerald continued.

“Just imagine this,” he said. “You have a son and a daughter and you don't have enough money to feed them. You have to make a decision that ‘I'll take my daughter to a big city or take my son to a big city and just leave them and hopefully they will find their way, or they're going to die here on the farm with me.' Can you imagine making decisions like that? That's crazy, man. I can't even wrap my mind around stuff like that.”

Fitzgerald came home a few days ago, in time for the start of offseason practices on Tuesday. He said he needs to lose a few pounds and get into football shape.

Meanwhile, he has taken the team's first-round draft pick, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, under his wing. Asked if Floyd is staying at his house, as other young players have done, Fitzgerald said “I can't confirm or deny those allegations. But he's taken care of, from what I hear.”

Fitzgerald had lobbied hard for the Cardinals to draft Floyd. It's added depth at a position that's lacked it since the departure of Bolden and Steve Breaston.

“Now this is many, many moons ago, but I remember 1998 when I was a ball boy with the Vikings. They had Jake Reed, who was a thousand-yard receiver. And they had Cris Carter and Robert Smith, guys who were Pro Bowlers, and they drafted Randy Moss,” Fitzgerald said. “And he was a difference. He was a guy that the league had never seen before.”

Floyd has a long way to go to deserve that comparison, but Fitzgerald said the rookie “is going to be a tremendous asset for our ball club.”

So it's back to work for Fitzgerald, a job he loves and is paid handsomely to perform. For now, the visits to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the walks through the stunning ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru or bungee jumping in New Zealand.

“Everybody talks about Larry's travels but what people don't know about is him going into depressed communities and working with kids and trying to make a life better for people all over the world,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That's a responsibility when you're in the NFL is giving back. Larry has the forum, because of his notoriety, to do that. I think that's why he's so beloved all over the country and certainly the world, because of doing those kinds of things.”

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