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NFL players Fitzgerald, Hester, Keller turn to journalism

Sat., March 12, 2011

From jock to journalist.

No, Larry Fitzgerald, Devin Hester and Dustin Keller haven’t been standing with other reporters outside the mediator’s office in Washington, trying to chronicle the NFL negotiations. They’re not looking for backup jobs.

Their journalistic pursuits deal with wildlife, parenting and food.

And yes, it’s been an effective way for them to put the league’s labor situation aside.

Fitzgerald, the star receiver of the Arizona Cardinals, has traveled the world taking photos, and will be doing a blog for National Geographic. Bears receiver/kick returner Hester’s first column on raising kids will appear in Chicago Parent Magazine in April. Jets tight end Keller regularly has done food reviews for the New York Times’ website.

“Writing comes naturally,” said Fitzgerald, whose father, also Larry, is a sports writer in Minneapolis. “With my dad a journalist, to be around it all these years I have found it interesting. I did an interview about my travel and love for it with (National Geographic) and about my passion for photography. They threw out the idea allowing me to do a blog. I usually write a journal when I am overseas and now other people can read it, and I was excited about it.”

The magazine has given Fitzgerald something NFL players rarely get: free rein. No game plans, no specific routes for him to run.

Just shoot and tell.

“I take safaris every year and love to see the animals in their natural habitat, be in close proximity to them and watch their patterns,” Fitzgerald said, noting he’s most intrigued by cheetahs and leopards. “I enjoy capturing the moment, special moments where you remember that leopard photo, how you got it and that the moment never will happen again.”

Fitzgerald hopes to eventually take photos of different sports around the world, from the popular to the obscure.

“This is something I will be passionate about after I am done playing,” he said. “It would be fascinating to go to Thailand and watch elephant polo.”

Keller isn’t seeking anything so exotic. Indeed, one of his more recent food reviews centered on New York City hot dog vendors who serve what’s affectionately (or not so much) called street meat.

Of course, Keller has to be careful how much of such fare he actually samples for his “I Eight One” columns, a play on the No. 81 he wears for the Jets.

“I will try pretty much anything, but I have to eat healthy and stay in shape for football,” he said. “Every time I have what I call a cheat meal, I want it to be something new. When I eat well throughout the week, high protein and healthy meals, I know to stay away from this or that. But when I go to a restaurant, I give myself one or two cheat meals.”

In his role as a food critic, Keller takes two approaches. For some reviews, he will arrive unannounced because “you get the same treatment everyone gets and can have the same judgments on the food.” If he makes arrangements beforehand, “if they know you are from the Times, obviously they will give you their best treatment.”

He also gets recognized as a Jet.

“A lot of waiters and waitresses are huge sports fans in New York and they really know their stuff,” he said. “They automatically know when you call in your name.”

There are no waiters or waitresses at the hot dog cart, though. Just the goods. Or the not-so-goods.

“From best to worst is a very wide gap,” he said. “A lot of people love those pushcarts and, man, they can be pretty disgusting. Sometimes you can see why they call it street meat. I wonder if they pick it up off the street.”

Hester plans to concentrate on advice for fathers of young kids. His son, Devin Jr., was born a year-and-a-half ago.

Hester recalls having “two father figures in my life” when he was young, and what a positive effect that had on his development. His natural father, who was separated from his mother, died when Devin was 10, and he also had a stepfather who interacted closely with him.

Now he wants to reach out to fathers to encourage them to be big parts of their sons’ lives.

“The fathers who are leaning not toward being a father figure, I want to let them know being in your son’s life is the most important thing for the first 13 to 15 years of his life,” Hester said. “Those are the key years.

“The things a father did when he was young, a young child wants to know.”

Hester will write about places he takes his son in Chicago, anything from trips to museums and ball games to a simple day in the park. When he was an undergrad at Miami, Hester says he didn’t do much writing, but he has since become interested.

Having a message to deliver should make the columns easier to do, he says.

“This is something real important and a way I can set an example,” he said.

Tags: football, NFL

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