NFL star pens Christmas tribute to Sen. John McCain: ‘I pray he lives another 20 years’

NFL star pens Christmas tribute to Sen. John McCain: ‘I pray he lives another 20 years’
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald penned an open letter to Sen. John McCain on Christmas. Fitzgerald recalled his 2013 trip to Vietnam, where he visited the site of McCain's prison cell. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wrote an open letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for Christmas, honoring his military service and sending prayers to the longtime senator, who was diagnosed this summer with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

McCain, who recently returned home to Arizona to recover from cancer treatment, developed an unlikely friendship with Fitzgerald after he began playing for the NFL team.

Writing for Sports Illustrated online, Fitzgerald wrote about the sacrifices McCain, an avid Cardinals fan, made for the U.S., and described his 2013 trip to Vietnam, where he visited the site of McCain’s prison cell.

“I saw the very jail cell where he was held as a POW and I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be him. I took a photo of myself next to his flight suit, the suit he was wearing when he got shot down,” Fitzgerald wrote. “So powerful. So meaningful. Those images will never leave my mind.”

Fitzgerald, who is in his 14th season with the Cardinals, acknowledged that while he and McCain do not share the same political beliefs, he still respects and admires McCain, now 81, for voting with his conscience.

“I’m not a super-political person, but I have young sons and I want them to know our nation’s history,” Fitzgerald wrote. “I also want them to be proud of our country. We should be a nation of fairness and equality. We should be a country with justice for all. One of the reasons I admire Senator McCain is that he doesn’t always just vote his party. He votes his conscience, and that can seem like a rare quality these days.”

“Today, my friend, Senator John McCain, again finds himself in a battle. This time it’s with cancer, and the treatment he’s undergoing is exhausting,” Fitzgerald added. “I’ll wish him a Merry Christmas today, and I pray he lives another 20 years. I know this: As soon as my boys are of age, I’ll tell them stories about the quality of the man I’ve gotten to know. I’ll tell them: Senator John McCain will be revered and respected for as long as the United States of America has a place in this world, and his legacy will outlive us all.”