Undrafted 'Little Fitzgerald' LaRon Byrd exhibits some of idol's skills

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LaRon Byrd had his share of offers to sign with NFL teams after he was bypassed in this year's draft. But there was only one that truly interested the wide receiver from the University of Miami.

It was the Cardinals.

Wait, the Cardinals? They already have a perennial Pro Bowl receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and just spent their first-round pick on another receiver, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.

There certainly isn't a dearth of depth at the position, either. The Cardinals have Andre Roberts and Early Doucet on the roster, plus a host of young backup receivers.

"Yeah, I know," said Byrd, who hails from Hahnville, La. "The real reason why I chose Arizona is actually because I idolized Larry Fitzgerald when I was in high school."

Back at Hahnville High, Byrd was considered one of the best wide receivers in Louisiana. People began calling him "Little Fitzgerald" during his junior season and not just because he had long dreadlocks like the real Fitzgerald.

Byrd has similar size -- he is 6 feet 4, 220 pounds -- and some of the same skills as Fitzgerald. It led to a scholarship to Miami, where he appeared in 51 games for the Hurricanes and finished his career with 106 receptions for 1,254 yards and seven touchdowns.

All the while, Byrd kept patterning his game after Fitzgerald, dreaming that one day he'd get a chance to play alongside him.

On the first day he reported to the Cardinals' training facility in Tempe, he finally met his idol, as Fitzgerald sat in on a team meeting for rookies.
Byrd was too nervous to tell Fiztgerald he was his biggest fan.

"I didn't want to sound like a groupie or come off like one of those wild, creepy fans," he said. "It's been on my mind to tell him, though. One day after it's all said and done, either after this season or, hey, after we win a Super Bowl, I'll tell him."

The two have already struck up a friendship. Fitzgerald has invited Byrd over to his house, and they've exchanged phone numbers.

"I know he's probably gotten a little aggravated at me at times because I'm like a little brother, always asking him questions, always picking his mind. But, hey, you've got a future Hall of Famer on your team -- why not try to learn as much as you can from one of the best?"

Byrd text messages Fitzgerald often, seeking tips and answers about certain pass routes or blocking scenarios.

"He's been great. I know he's a busy guy, but there's not one time I texted him where he didn't reply back," Byrd said. "He's never pushed me to the side, so I'm very appreciative of him. He has my utmost respect."

Byrd turned heads during the Cardinals' series of minicamps, making several impressive catches.

He reminded some observers of Fitzgerald with his jumping ability and sure-handedness.

The Cardinals have a recent history for keeping undrafted free-agent receivers on the roster beyond training camp.

Byrd hopes that trend continues with him, even if they just drafted Floyd to be their No. 2 wideout.

"I don't fear competition," he said. "Like my mom always said, 'the cream rises to the top,' and as long as I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and making plays, I know the coaches will recognize that.

"I'm a guy nobody knew about, but the way I look at it is the only thing different from a free agent and a first-round pick is the money. You still have to play football."

Byrd said he plans to treat training camp next month in Flagstaff as if it is "my whole season."

He hopes to duplicate his success at minicamp, keep turning heads, and keep asking questions -- especially of his idol, Fitzgerald.

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