Possible sleeper in the late rds??
School of hard knocks
Injuries, adversity have made Ducks' Colvin stronger
Posted: Friday March 14, 2008 9:35AM; Updated: Friday March 14, 2008 3:00PM
Speedy receiver Cameron Colvin showed flashes of brilliance in his career at Oregon and hopes to impress NFL types at the Ducks' Pro Day next week.
By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
Like a lot of college seniors, Oregon's Cameron Colvin has a job interview next Thursday. In fact, he'll be auditioning for multiple employers on the same day. Like most of those peers, Colvin would really like to ace his interview. In fact, he's spent the past several months preparing for it. Unlike the typical college senior, however, Colvin has to ace this interview. It may be his one and only chance to enter the profession of his choosing.
If things had worked out as planned for the former Ducks receiver, there would not be so much riding on this singular performance at his school's 2008 Pro Day, where he will run, lift, catch passes and perform other assorted drills in front of the watchful eyes of NFL personnel men. Like a Chris Long or Darren McFadden the audition would barely affect his draft status.
Colvin, however, was not even among the 330-plus players invited to last month's NFL Scouting Combine. The Web site NFLDraftCountdown.com lists him 61st among receiver prospects. TFY Draft analyst (and SI.com contributor) Tony Pauline puts it bluntly: "He's not going to get drafted."
Oh, and did we mention Colvin is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered last October?
If any of this has dissuaded the cheery, soft-spoken 22-year-old Pittsburg, Calif., native from pursuing his NFL dreams, he hasn't shown it. If so, he would not have spent the past two months shuttling back and forth between Eugene, where he is in the midst of completing a degree in political science, and Florida, where he trains with a former Olympic gold-medalist.
"I'm one of the most motivated people on the planet," said Colvin. "A lot of people go through their whole lives not knowing what they want to do. I've always known I was born to be an NFL receiver."
When you've endured as many personal tragedies and setbacks as Colvin, the thought of disproving an entire league full of skeptics probably seems like a walk in the park.
Over the past decade, football fans have become increasingly obsessed with two rituals that take place away from the gridiron: National Signing Day and the NFL Draft. Colvin's once-certain rise to stardom dovetailed somewhere between the former and the latter.
Four years ago, the De La Salle (Calif.) receiver was such a hot commodity that his Signing-Day press conference was broadcast live on SportsCenter. With his godfather and mentor, Jay Lightner, by his side, Colvin sung the praises of his three finalists -- USC, Michigan and Oregon -- before donning a green cap and proclaiming, "I'll be a Duck."
Answering a subsequent question about which NFL player he would compare himself to, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver replied, "[I'm] kind of a Randy Moss-type receiver. I like to go up and get the ball and take over the game."
The claim may seem audacious now, but at the time Colvin had every reason to think he was on the path to NFL stardom. Fresh off a U.S. Army All-American Bowl performance in which he'd caught two touchdown passes, Rivals.com tabbed him the nation's No. 2 receiver, just behind future LSU standout Early Doucet, just ahead of future All-Americans Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech) and Dwayne Jarrett (USC).
As high school freshmen nearly three years earlier, Colvin and three of his De La Salle teammates, Terrance Kelly, Willie Glasper and Jackie Bates, sat in a cafeteria and joked about one day playing for the same college: Oregon. "Oregon was doing well at the time," said Colvin. "I guess we were some bandwagon guys."
The four were nearly inseparable throughout high school, and, while they all took serious looks at other schools during their recruitment, on Feb. 4, 2004, all four indeed became Ducks. Colvin was particularly close with Kelly, a running back and linebacker who grew up amidst a soundtrack of gunshots and police sirens in Richmond, Calif.
"My mother considered Terrance like a son of hers," said Colvin. "We would stay at each other's houses."
On Aug. 16, two days before he and the other incoming freshmen were scheduled to report to Oregon, Kelly was shot and killed in his hometown. Sadly, it wasn't the first tragedy in Colvin's life. His father, John, passed away when Colvin was six. His mother, Veronica, died following a stroke during his sophomore year of high school, after which Lightner, Colvin's godfather and former junior high basketball coach, became his legal guardian.
On top of the normal, daunting acclimation to college, Colvin began his first set of practices just days after burying his best friend. He saw the field almost immediately, earning a start against Cal and catching two touchdowns against Washington, but admits, "the focus wasn't there."
"He showed some flashes of brilliance but at times was inconsistent and was somewhat overhyped," said Ducks coach Mike Bellotti. "He was a tremendous athlete who needed a lot of fundamental work in terms of his route running and control -- he had some fumble issues. As a sophomore, he settled down and did some really nice things for us. We really felt he was going to take off."
So did Colvin. He started all 12 games for an Oregon team that finished 10-2, but with the Ducks running a spread offense that often utilized three- and four-receiver sets, and with future NFL wideouts Demetrius Williams and Tim Day alongside him, Colvin finished the year with just 22 catches for 332 yards. As is often the case with such highly touted recruits, a familiar label was attached to him: Underachiever.
"I wanted the ball all the time, and it gave me a bad rap sometimes," said Colvin. "And when I got out there, I tried too hard to produce, and that hurt me. I'd catch a screen and I felt I had to score every time. I'd end up fumbling."
Making matters worse, Colvin pulled a hamstring muscle during Holiday Bowl practices that year, touching off a recurring pattern that would plague him throughout his junior season. After starting the season strong, Colvin became increasingly less effective due to both hamstring and groin injuries, finishing his third collegiate season with more disappointing numbers: 18 catches for 121 yards.
It was no small wonder that the NFL's two major scouting services graded him as "undraftable" in their 2007 preseason editions. Little did those services know, however, that Colvin had spent the previous winter and spring working himself into the best shape of his life. Already timed as fast as a 4.37 in the 40, Colvin bench-pressed 345 pounds during winter conditioning, extremely high for a receiver. Physically, there was little question he had all the tools to be an elite receiver.
Finally, last fall, Colvin got his chance. Unfortunately, like so many other parts of his life, it got taken away from him.
With the electrifying Dennis Dixon at quarterback and a new coordinator, Chip Kelly, calling the plays, Oregon's spread offense exploded during the 2007 season, and Colvin was playing a major role. After top receiver Brian Paysinger suffered a season-ending ACL injury the third week of the season, Colvin stepped in and caught eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in a 55-31 win at Stanford on Sept. 22, seven catches for 74 yards and a score the next week against Cal. (Unfortunately, most fans' main memory of Colvin from that game was that of him fumbling inches short of the goal line as he stretched to convert a potential last second, game-tying touchdown.)
"When Paysinger went down he really took over and was our dominant receiver," said Bellotti. "He was doing the things we always knew he could do and he knew he could do."
That is, until the Ducks' game two weeks later against Washington State, when a defender rolled into his planted leg and Colvin felt a pop. He knew immediately: His ankle was broken.
As he lay there on the field, his college career derailed for good, his NFL stock plummeting before it ever had a chance to rise, Colvin ... laughed. Bellotti had come on to the field and suggested, optimistically, that maybe his player had simply torn some scar tissue. "No coach," he said with a chuckle. "This is it."
"It brought tears to my eyes," said Bellotti. "He had persevered through a career of unmet expectations, he was finally doing what everyone thought he could do, it was so gratifying -- and then it was snatched away from him. You wonder why some elite being would heap that much on one young man."
It took everything in Colvin's power not to break down on the sideline afterward. "What the hell?" he thought to himself. "Why now?"
But that's about as long as the pity party lasted. Those who know Colvin all express the same, universal admiration as to how a person who's endured such a staggering amount of trauma in just 22 years manages to remain almost relentlessly upbeat.
"There's no character issues whatsoever," said Colvin's agent, Marvin Frazier. "This guy grew up with no mother, no father, yet stayed on the straight and narrow and has a wonderful head on his shoulder. A lot of kids would get upset at world for that, but he's stayed the course."
Such was the case again after his latest setback. Through Frazier, Colvin got hooked up with three-time Olympic sprinter and former gold medalist Dennis Mitchell, who works with a handful of draft prospects at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.
Determined to not only recover from his injury in time for draft workouts but also reshape his body, Colvin went on a "detox" diet ("Just chicken and green beans the first two weeks," said Colvin. "You'd drive by a McDonald's and go crazy.") that cut his body-fat index in half. Meanwhile, he continued his rehabilitation and worked with a strength coach there while Mitchell put him through drills with the goal of improving his 40 time.
Mind you, he did this on the weekends, usually departing Oregon on Friday afternoon, flying five hours to Florida, working out twice a day there Saturday and Sunday, then returning to Oregon on Monday to resume his classwork. Before she passed, Colvin's mother told Lightner to make sure her son got his college degree.
"That's how serious this is to me," said Colvin. "It's a hectic schedule, but it's all worth it. I'm just looking for an opportunity to get in the NFL."
Ranked ahead of Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Jarrett coming out of high school, injuries too often slowed down Colvin's college career.
Whether he gets that opportunity may depend almost entirely on how he performs at Thursday's Pro Day. Numerous NFL teams are expected to send representatives. Colvin declines to place a "percentage" on the status of his ankle but says he'll be able to participate in all drills.
NFL scouting departments are nothing if not thorough -- these are the same people who unearthed the likes of Steelers star Willie Parker and Bengals tailback Kenny Watson, who were buried on their college depth charts -- so it's not like teams don't know Colvin's name. "There are about seven teams that I personally know are interested in him right now," said Frazier. All will be watching closely Thursday.
"There have been guys who had knock-out pro days and got drafted," said Pauline, citing the case of Ethan Kilmer, a former back-up receiver and special-teams player at Penn State who became a seventh-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals following his impressive Pro Day. "He's going to have to run fast. His injury history is going to be a problem. He's obviously big and stronger than hell, but if the ankle gets red-flagged that's obstacle No. 1."
Even if Colvin goes undrafted, as long as he gets a rookie-camp invite somewhere, Bellotti thinks his former receiver will turn heads. "If and when he gets into a camp, he will excite people," he said. "He's a physical athlete, he can catch and run, he just lacks experience. If he hadn't gotten hurt, he would have caught 50 to 60 balls [last season] and be on everyone's list. Now he's going to have to work for that."
Colvin hopes to show on Pro Day just how hard he's been working. "I don't sleep at night," he said. "I'll get up at 2 a.m. and go running. I have a dream, and it's going to happen."
Colvin estimates he has 20 different tattoos on his body -- each one signifying a different chapter of his life or another person who he's lost. When he runs those all-important four-plus seconds in front of the scouts next Thursday, he'll be running for not only himself but for his parents and for the late Kelly, who himself dreamed of one day making it to the NFL.
"Tragedy can do two things to a person -- it can make you crazy or it can make you stronger," said Colvin. "My tragedy made me stronger."
Those that don't know any better would think he's a little crazy, too.
Re: Possible sleeper in the late rds??
I LOVE CRAZY PEOPLE !! I LOVE FAST CRAZY PEOPLE THE BEST . i'm a little on the off side myself ya know . it the MAD COW ya know!
Re: Possible sleeper in the late rds??
He looks like a textbook seventh round pick. One that might not even make the roster, but if you find something, you look like a genius. If he's not drafted, I wholly expect a number of teams to be going after him right after the draft.