Everything except good grades. Colleges that showed interest in him backed off when they saw D's on his transcript. Some suggested that he attend junior college. Others, including Pitt coach Walt Harris, recommended prep school. Fitzgerald left Minneapolis in the middle of his senior year at Holy Angels and enrolled at Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy. "Here he was, a star athlete pulled out of his school to make up for lost time, and all of a sudden he's a plebe, with sophomores telling him to shine his shoes," says Valley Forge coach Mike Muscella. "And he took it all and he grew up."
Yet no influence in Fitzgerald's life has endured like his mother's. Carol Fitzgerald was a disease intervention specialist with the Minnesota Department of Health who also founded the African-American AIDS Task Force in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Circle of Love, an HIV support group. "She was the type of person who would never turn off her pager," says coworker Georgia Harris. Through his mother, Larry met dozens of AIDS patients and their children. Many of the patients died, teaching Larry a lesson that has helped him slowly accept his own loss.
"I was around death a lot," he says. "I've learned to accept that I was blessed to have my mom for 19 years. Everything I've done this season is in her honor. I know she's watching me."
He has given her one sweet show.