A year after quietly hanging up his cleats, NFL superstar Larry Fitzgerald remains enormously popular in Arizona. How popular? In a 2021 OH Predictive Insights poll, the former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver ranked No. 1 among all human beings – including former teammate Kurt Warner and President Joe Biden – as the person Arizona voters would most like to see in higher office. Little wonder the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee recruited the presumptive first-ballot Hall of Famer (he’s eligible in 2026) to serve as its Executive Chairman, where he leads the committee’s outreach efforts and generally serves as the face of Super Bowl LVII. Fitzgerald took a time-out from his duties to talk about his kinda-sorta retirement, strategies for exiting a party gracefully and plans not to run for Arizona Governor.
PHOENIX: You’ve taken a prominent role with the Super Bowl Host Committee. Do you see yourself doing that kind of public service going forward in Arizona? Are you still based here?
Larry Fitzgerald: Yeah, this is home for me. It’s been 19 years and I love it here. I love the growth of our state and… to see how it’s grown since I got here in 2004 is pretty amazing. The stadium out in Glendale hadn’t been built yet, the innovations Arizona State [University] is doing, the Fortune 500 companies that are moving here, and the infrastructure. It’s completely changed. And I know it’s only going to get stronger as people move here. So, I’m excited.
People are curious: Your playing career seems to be over, but you didn’t do one of those farewell tours. Was that by design?
It was. I’m not a big farewell tour kind of guy. That’s not my thing. Never been something I’ve been big on. The game is much bigger than one individual. I just wanted to make the transition for myself and for the team and for the city very easy. And just sneak out the back door.
What’s that called? An Irish goodbye?
An Irish goodbye. I’m really good at that. “Larry said he went to the bathroom… Have you seen him?” [laughs] “Yeah, I saw his car pull out about an hour ago.”
How are you spending your days now?
Oh, I’m busier now than I probably was when I was playing. I’m involved in quite a few things – things that I’m passionate about and really enjoy. That expand you and push you to find new creative ways to fill the void that the ball left.
I hear you’re a big travel junkie.
Yeah, but I haven’t been able to do a lot of travel over the last two years. COVID put the kibosh on it. My kids [three sons, ages 14, 9 and 6] are getting older, too, so it’s a tad bit irresponsible for me to sneak off for two weeks now.
What about taking them with you?
No, they don’t eat enough [kinds of food]! All they want is Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A.
If you’re in Vietnam, that’s an issue.
Big issue. They’d be losing weight over there, because they wouldn’t be trying much of anything.
Do you have bucket-list trips left?
I’ve always wanted to go to Iran, because they have some really cool UNESCO sites. I was going to go [in 2016] when they had the bombing at Brussels Airport, and I was connecting through there. So, I was like, “I’ll sit this one out.” And now [Iran] has some other stuff going on there…
Yeah, the world is complicated.
I mentioned before your sky-high approval ratings. And, of course, we just had the election. But you’ve gone on record saying you don’t have any interest…
Right. And do you think part of your popularity is, you know, engendered by the fact that you haven’t gotten political?
100 percent. It doesn’t matter what you do. If you get involved in politics… like, 50 percent [of people] will love you, 50 percent will hate you. It doesn’t really matter. So, I just don’t see that as something I want to be involved in.
You want to keep that perfect approval rating…
I don’t like asking people for money, either. So, the fundraising [of a campaign] would not be fun for me. Things that you’re really passionate about, you have to make concessions on. Things you love, you have to make concessions on. I prefer not to live like that.
What are your passions? What do you want to advocate for over the next years and decades?
I feel like my team and I have done a good job with [The Larry Fitzgerald Foundation]. Touched quite a few lives, and I’d like to be more involved and more active in those initiatives. Cancer awareness and bridging technology gaps in schools, and health care are things that are important to me and my community. So, I want to go and be a part of things that are transformational to people.