Arizona Cardinals wide reciever Larry Fitzgerald penned a Christmas-themed tribute to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,
In an op-ed published in Sports Illustrated on Saturday, Fitzgerald, who has played his whole NFL career in Arizona, cited McCain’s military service.
"The sacrifices John McCain has made for our country, and especially the men and women he served with in the military, are incredible," Fitzgerald wrote. "As a prisoner of war in Vietnam he missed six Christmases with his family back home and suffered unbelievable hardship.”
Fitzgerald writes that he and McCain have become friends during his time in the NFL, and that his admiration has grown for the senator during that time.
“I’m not much of a political guy, but I am fascinated with history and in particular learning about the impact war has had on so many lives,” Fitzgerald wrote, adding, “I knew a few things about the senator just from playing in Arizona and getting to know him over the years. He is also an avid Cardinals fan and attends our games and practices from time to time, so our relationship has grown throughout my career.”
According to a 2012 report, Fitzgerald has made five USO tours to visit soldiers overseas. The NFL star has also made numerous trips overseas for mission trips in countries like Africa and Thailand, and has been given numerous league awards for his philanthropic endeavors.
In his piece, Fitzgerald mentions a 2013 trip he took to Vietnam where he followed the path McCain took during the Vietnam War.
“The most meaningful part of the trip was seeing the spots related to Senator McCain’s experience. I went to the lake where he was shot down and I learned about how he was captured,” Fitzgerald wrote. “When Senator McCain refused to be released from the prison camp until his fellow soldiers were freed as well, he earned the respect of all those men going through hell. I tried to imagine what a great teammate he must have been. Those guys respected him so much. After hearing all this, I was astounded by the quality of human being he was.”
Fitzgerald concluded his piece by wishing him good luck in his fight against brain cancer, and says he prays McCain “lives another 20 years.”
“As soon as my boys are of age, I’ll tell them stories about the quality of the man I’ve gotten to know. I’ll tell them: Senator John McCain will be revered and respected for as long as the United States of America has a place in this world, and his legacy will outlive us all,” Fitzgerald concludes.
McCain, who is home in Arizona fighting glioblastoma, responded to Fitzgerald on Twitter.
“Thank you @LarryFitzgerald, I’m deeply touched. Thanks for all you do to give back to #Arizona & our nation. Merry Christmas!” McCain, who is 81, tweeted.