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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
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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.
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.
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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."

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