NFL Star Larry Fitzgerald Recalls the ‘Authentic American Hero’ at McCain’s Funeral: ‘We Are All Better for Having Known You’

As mourners gathered at an Arizona church to pay their respects to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Arizona Cardinals wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, and former Vice President Joe Biden delivered emotional tributes to McCain.

After being asked to deliver the remarks at McCain’s funeral, the NFL star called it “one of the greatest honors of my life,” The Hill reported.

“It’s tough to be able to get everything you want to say,” Fitzgerald said, according to The Hill. “How do you accurately be able to give somebody their due justice who served the United States for 60-plus years, I mean dedicated his entire life.”

Brian Snyder/Reuters

At the memorial on Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church, Fitzgerald did just that for his friend, calling McCain the “authentic American hero.”

“I’m black. He was white,” Fitzgerald said as he began his speech, pointing out their friendship. “I’m young. He wasn’t so young. He lived with physical limitations brought on by war. I’m a professional athlete. He ran for president. I run out of bounds.”

Fitzgerald was inspired by McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, to visit Vietnam himself and retrace McCain’s steps.

“I sat in his cell,” Fitzgerald said, allowing him to imagine the “ordeal that my friend survived [which] became all the more real.”

Listen to his speech about his unlikely friend, McCain, below:

“I saw how respected he was and how much admiration he commanded from people across the political spectrum. But that admiration wasn’t surprising because Senator McCain was known as a man of integrity and conviction,” Fitzgerald said.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Biden began his tribute about his time in Senate with McCain by saying, “My name’s Joe Biden, I’m a Democrat, and I loved John McCain.”

He mentioned that he’s given eulogies in the past to great men and women, but “this one’s hard.”

The former vice president teared and chocked up, then continued, “I always thought of John as a brother.”

“The disease that took John’s life — that took our friend Ted Kennedy’s life, that took my son Beau’s life — is brutal, relentless, unforgiving,” Biden said. “It takes so much from those we love, and from the families who love them, that in order to survive we have to remember how they lived, not how they died.”

Watch Biden’s tribute below:

Matt York/Reuters

“I’d like to honor the love that I saw in Sen. McCain,” Fitzgerald said in concluding his tribute. “…. He took that same love to Washington [D.C.] and boldly advocated for freedoms and liberty’s he had grown to love as a young Navy pilot.”

Brian Snyder/Reuters

“We will never forget the impact you had on the world, and more importantly, on each of the lives that you touched,” Fitzgerald said. “We are all better for having known you. Rest in peace, my friend.”

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