Perhaps no active NFL player was more impacted by the life of former Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green than Larry Fitzgerald was.
Green, who passed away Friday at age 67, gave the Minnesota-born Fitzgerald his first taste of the NFL by hiring him as a Vikings ball boy when Fitz was just a teenager.
Years later, Green and the Cardinals selected the future Hall of Famer with the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
"When I met Coach Green, I was a young man with a lot of hopes and aspirations. What he gave me was belief," Fitzgerald wrote in a column for The Players' Tribune released Monday. "I've only had two jobs my entire life, and Dennis Green got me both of them.
"While I was a ball boy with the team, Coach Green showed me firsthand what it meant to be a professional. He gave me more and more responsibility over time -- letting me do things that might seem small now, like spotting the ball during practice, but at the time I took them really seriously. I couldn’t have had a better role model at that age."
Fitzgerald said Green was instrumental in ensuring the Cardinals selected him in the 2004 draft ahead of other potential superstars.
"I knew Coach had a big hand in having the team draft me with the No. 3 pick when they could have taken guys like Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers," he wrote. "The Cardinals already had a young Pro Bowl receiver in Anquan Boldin. Wide receiver wasn’t a need position for them.
"So my emotions went from joy to feeling a lot of pressure. I didn’t want to let Coach Green down. I knew I had to go out there and perform well so people would know that he had done that he did a good job evaluating me. All I wanted was to do right by him."
Fitzgerald said Green was there for him during the most pivotal moments of his life after he served as a ball boy but before he became an NFL star.
"When it came time for me to choose a college, I confided in Coach Green. When my mom passed away, he was one of first people to call me," he wrote. "He never considered himself too important or too busy to pick up the phone and provide some wisdom. He had this special gift for guiding and molding young men, and football happened to be the way he shared it."
Check out Fitzgerald's entire letter here.