University of Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald officially declared his intention to enter the 2004 National Football League Draft today at the Panthers' Duratz Complex.
"The University of Pittsburgh has been a special place to me and I will be forever indebted to the many people who helped me as both a person and a player," Fitzgerald said. "It has been an honor and privilege to be a Panther. I will always work to represent this school as best I can in whatever I do in life."
Fitzgerald, who recently was named the draft's top prospect by ESPN's Mel Kiper, leaves Pittsburgh as one of the most decorated players in school history despite playing only two seasons. He was named the winner of the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, becoming the first sophomore to earn that prestigious honor. Fitzgerald additionally won the Biletnikoff Award as the country's top receiver and was named a unanimous All-American.
In the Heisman Trophy balloting, Fitzgerald finished a strong second to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, losing by just 128 points. Fitzgerald carried three voting regions, an unprecedented achievement for a sophomore.
Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris, who was traveling and could not attend the announcement, said "Larry Fitzgerald set new standards of excellence on and off the football field."
"We all have been blessed to be around such a special person and outstanding athlete in Larry Fitzgerald," Harris said. "Not only was he an unbelievable receiver, but he also set a great example of how players should respect the game. We wish him well in his next challenge and know he will be a special player on the next level."
Fitzgerald is the third Pittsburgh player in the last two years to enter the NFL Draft with eligibility remaining. In 2002, receiver Antonio Bryant and free safety Ramon Walker entered the draft following their junior years. Bryant was a third-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys and Walker was picked in the fifth round by the Houston Texans.
Fitzgerald (Minneapolis, Minn./Academy of the Holy Angels/Valley Forge Military Academy) set three NCAA receiving records and tied another this season, including consecutive games with a touchdown catch (18), touchdown catches as a freshman and sophomore (34), receiving yards as a sophomore (1,672) and most games catching a TD pass in a season (tied Marshall's Randy Moss with 12).
He additionally set eight Big East receiving records: single-season receiving yards (1,672), single-season receptions (92), single-season TD catches (22), career TD catches (34), career 1,000-yard receiving seasons (two), career 100-yard receiving games (14), single-season 100-yard receiving games (10) and catches per game (7.1 avg.). Remember the days before the internet when you had to rely on newspapers and television for news on the Panthers? There never was enough and when there was a story, it left you hanging, wanting more, needing more, craving more. What if you're stuck in places outside the Pittsburgh reporting areas where Panther news is hard to come by...Florida, California or worse yet, Central PA? Yee gads!
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