Bruschi An Inspiration For Others

When football players go through certain experiences in life, it grounds them. That happened to Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi just a few short seasons ago. Now he's helping another football player deal with adversity.

To address depth on the offensive line, the Ravens signed undrafted rookie center Robby Felix, who is attempting to become just the second man to play in the NFL after a stroke.

Felix, who went undrafted after being a four-year starter at UTEP, suffered his stroke six months ago. He is looking to follow in the steps of New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who returned to the NFL eight months after suffering a stroke in February 2005.

"I think about it a lot," Felix said. "I'm scared of having another stroke. But I have to fight through it and go on with my life."

Felix, who turns 23 in June, suffered his stroke on Nov. 16, a day after his final college home game. He felt the right side of his body shut down during a shower.

Felix caught himself before he fell but he couldn't speak. He hopped out of the shower and got the attention of his wife, Kelly, who was five months pregnant with the couple's first child.

By the time he got to a hospital, he could move his foot and say a couple of words. Because of his age and quick medical attention, he regained movement and the ability to speak six days later.

"At that point, I didn't even know if I would play again," Felix said. "They told me it was a stroke, but I didn't really know what that was."

No one was willing to take a chance on Felix, a four-year starter at UTEP who had hopes of being drafted as high as the third round. Not only did every team pass on him in the draft, he didn't get a call to sign as a free agent.

Felix finally decided to give up on his NFL dream and agreed to work construction for his aunt and uncle in California before his first NFL team contacted him.

"I was shocked," he said of the call from the Ravens.

After two minicamps, the Ravens were looking to improve their depth on the offensive line. Team officials had rated Felix as a draftable prospect and continued to study his case.

The Ravens invited Felix for a workout and a physical Monday. They signed him after he passed every test.

"We didn't feel like there was any added risk," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "We feel like he has the situation under control. We feel comfortable that he won't have another (stroke).

"With our comfort level, we think he has a chance to compete and make the team as a backup center."

A specialist told Felix that the probable cause was thickened blood, which can lead to clotting and deprivation of oxygen to the brain when dehydrated. Felix's only medicine now is one aspirin every morning, which acts as a blood thinner. While there is no guarantee he will never suffer another stroke, doctors have said the risk is minimal.

Felix recently talked to Bruschi about his experience.

"He was encouraging, to say the least," Felix said. "He told me to keep fighting and a lot of good things will happen."

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