Best Male Pro Athlete (2009)

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Forget about T.O. (that would be Terrell Owens), Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith. Andre Johnson, okay?! Larry Fitzgerald, he of our very own NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals, is the best wide receiver in the professional game today. He's big, he's sure-handed, he's money.

Everybody liked to marvel at aged Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner's renewed prowess last season, and it was something to behold. But, without Fitzgerald, Warner wouldn't have bridged that gap between above-average and good/great. Fitz is a QB's dream: a big, 6-foot-3, sticky-fingered wideout with huge leaping ability who rarely misses a pass in his vicinity. And who, when he gets his hands on the pigskin, advances it up the field because he's so freakin' hard to bring down.

Look at his incredible post-season, which wound up with the Cardinals (the Cardinals!) going to the Super Bowl. During the NFC title game, which the Cards won 32-25 over the Philadelphia Eagles, Fitzgerald became the first player in history to catch three touchdown passes in a conference championship game. In the post-season, he set a record with 546 receiving yards, 30 receptions, and seven TD catches. The fact that the Cardinals eventually lost 27-23 to the Steelers in the Super Bowl had nothing to do with Fitzgerald (it was about the defense's inability to hold a lead): He caught two touchdown passes in the game.

During the 16-game regular season, Fitzgerald led all NFL receivers in efficiency. He caught 96 of 154 passes for 1,434 yards and 12 TDs. His longest regular-season catch was good for 78 yards. He edged out the Houston Texans' Johnson who caught 115 out of 170 for 1,575 yards and eight scores.

The dreadlocked former ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings is a bull. After last season's Pro Bowl, in which the former University of Pittsburgh standout caught two TD passes and was named the game's Most Valuable Player, it was discovered that he'd been playing with a broken thumb for more than two months.

Best of Phoenix 2009 In Photos


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