Editor's note: A special Super Bowl section for the in Saturday's sports' pages.TAMPA, Fla. - Larry Fitzgerald soars above the outstretched arms of defenders, caresses the football with his fingertips, and clings to it as he comes back down to earth.
The scene is all too familiar to his teammates and coaches, and now the 25-year-old receiver's amazing skills are the talk of the Super Bowl. He could, single-handedly, be the potent equalizer the Arizona Cardinals need against Pittsburgh's defense.
Watch him. He has an uncanny knack for lifting his 6-foot-3 body off the ground at precisely the right moment, at the right height, so he can be exactly where he needs to be to grab the ball.
"He is doing what he was born to do," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.
Fitzgerald is the antithesis of the stereotypical brash receiver. After he makes spectacular touchdown catches, he simply flips the ball to the official.
"I aspire to be great," Fitzgerald said. "That's one of the reasons to play the game - to win, to be great. I feel that if you aren't trying to be the best, then I don't understand what your motivation is in this game as a player."
His friends keep him humble. Former Minnesota Vikings great Cris Carter, a longtime pal and mentor, tells him he's not the best receiver in the NFL.
"He's not better than Andre Johnson," said Carter, who persistently nudges Fitzgerald to improve. He is the voice in Fitzgerald's ear that whispers "what you did last week really doesn't matter."
Fitzgerald is as alert to detail in practice as he is in games.
"I don't look too far in the future. I just look at today," Fitzgerald said this week. "How can I be the best player I can be on Wednesday? How can I be the best player I can be on Thursday? If I can continue to chip away like that, then I can be the best player on Sunday."
A measure of greatness is how well a player performs on the biggest stage: His 419 yards receiving broke Jerry Rice's NFL postseason record, and he still has a game to go; his three 100-yard receiving games tie him with Tom Fears, Rice and Randy Moss for most in a career postseason.
"I think Larry has always had the ability to catch the football, but as a player that wants to be great, he's worked hard at the little things, as we say, to improve his game," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.