Down But Not Out

Iowa fullback Edgar Cervantes sustained two injuries a week before last month's pro day. While the setbacks proved frustrating, the Los Angeles native continues to push towards his NFL dream. Find out the status of Cervantes, the pro teams that have shown him interest and much more in this premium HN.com feature.

The question wasn't why me, it was why now.

For five seasons, Edgar Cervantes had been the picture of good health. Sure, he might have sustained a nick or a bruise now and then. But that's football.

The streak of enviable fortune ended at the most inopportune time for the Iowa fullback. A week before the school's first pro day last month, Cervantes injured his quadriceps muscles in his right leg during running drills and his left pectoral muscle while bench pressing.

"It's very frustrating," he said last week. "It's difficult. For four years I was pretty much injury free. Then it comes to the week before one of the biggest days of my life to show my skills and abilities and my muscles just give out on me."

Cervantes (6-3, 243) started the last two seasons, helping the Hawkeyes post a 21-5 record. The Los Angeles native paved the way for running back Fred Russell to post two of the five best single-season rushing totals in program history.

Game films showing Cervantes cutting down linebackers in pursuit of Russell has caught the attention of NFL scouts. Cervantes has placed his faith in that being enough to get him into a pro camp.

"A coach from (the Denver Broncos) came up to me and told me that they liked the film of me," Cervantes said. "They liked the way I played the game; they liked my ability to block. They told me that they were considering me. They told me that they knew I was hurt. That gave me the closure."

The Oakland Raiders, who have always loved the fullback, have shown the most interest in Cervantes. Minnesota and Green Bay also have contacted his representation.

"My agent has been doing a lot of work for me right now," Cervantes said. "I sent a resume to everybody. It has my times with (Iowa Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris) Doyle to prove what I can do when I'm healthy. I've been getting a lot of feedback from a couple of teams."

Cervantes struggled with the exercise of sitting on the sidelines while his teammates showed their stuff to scouts from almost every NFL team during Iowa's first pro day in early March. It proved so tough that the fullback tested his injured quadriceps during the second pro day later that month.

"I tried," he said. "During my first 40, towards the end, that's when I hurt it again. I ran like a 5.2(-second, 40-yard dash). It was ridiculous. (The scouts) knew it, too. I usually run about a 4.7. I was pretty bummed about that."

Cervantes believes that he found the cause of the injury. And, he has changed his approach.

"I'm definitely taking care of myself a lot more," he said. "Not that I wasn't taking care of myself before. I'm just not pushing myself too hard. I think that's what happened to me. I was pushing myself to hard, way too hard. My muscles just couldn't take it anymore. I was doing too much conditioning, too much speed work."

Cervantes still is rehabilitating his quadriceps while he works out daily with Doyle and a large group of fellow Hawkeyes hopeful of landing an NFL contract this fall.

"I'm coming along," he said. "I wouldn't say that I'm 100 percent, but I'm coming along pretty decent. My qaud is still bothering me a little bit. I've been getting treatments."

By the time NFL minicamps roll around at the end of the month, Cervantes feels that he will be strong enough to show what he can do. And what he does follows a trend in the direction pro teams are heading.

The NFL mostly abandoned the fullback in favor of one-running back sets in the middle to late 1990s. Then, linebackers like Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis and Derrick Brooks started to dominate games.

The blocking fullback has reemerged to keep these menacing defensive players off of the running backs and quarterbacks.

"They're coming back and using the fullback a lot more," Cervantes said. "That's the thing that gives me an advantage. My strength was my ability to block, and that's pretty much what they want. They're looking for a blocking fullback and someone that can catch the ball once in a while. I have pretty good hands."

Cervantes also believes that he has been tested against the best during his college career, which should make his transition to the NFL much easier.

"I don't think they have anything that I can't handle," he said. "The Big Ten has pretty much the best linebackers in the whole country. I think I'm prepared strength wise and I've got the size for my position; and I've got the speed and I've got the hands. I feel pretty confident. All I need is a shot to make it."


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