Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be one of six speakers and one of three athletes participating in Sen. John McCain’s memorial service in Phoenix on Thursday.
Fitzgerald was asked by Cindy McCain, wife of the late senator, a couple of months ago to speak at the service during a short drive after a visit to the McCain ranch in Cornville, Arizona, about 20 miles south of Sedona.
Fitzgerald told ESPN on Monday before his annual Fitz’s Supper Club fundraiser at Dominick’s Steakhouse in Scottsdale that he was initially “really taken aback” by the request but readily accepted.
“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 said. “So, I was really taken aback by it.”
Two other Arizona sports legends will take part in the ceremony.
Former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez and former Coyotes forward Shane Doan will serve as pallbearers.
All three athletes were close friends of McCain, who died Saturday at age 81.
Fitzgerald will give his tribute to McCain before that of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the ceremony’s official schedule.
Fitzgerald said he’ll have five to six minutes to speak, which he said will make it tough to fit in everything he wants to say about McCain.
“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 her 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.”
The Cardinals have their final preseason game late Thursday afternoon against the Denver Broncos, but while Fitzgerald is expected to be on the sideline, he isn’t expected to play.
McCain had a strong connection to Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. He attended Cardinals games and made an appearance at training camp before the 2017 season. Fitzgerald became friends with the senator, penning a tribute to him last Christmas and visiting him this year.
Thursday’s ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. ET at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix. About 1,000 seats were made available to the public.
Fitzgerald’s eulogy will be about what McCain meant to this country and to him.
“The impact that he’s had on myself, Arizona, the nation,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m just going to try to do the best I can.”