Fargas hoping image goes beyond 'Huggy Bear'

"He's always been supportive. I'm a football player. Who knows what the future brings but right now I'm glad to be a Raider. Everywhere I go somebody brings it up every day. I'm used to it and I've dealt with it my whole life."--Raiders running back Justin Fargas

 

When talking about USC running back Justin Fargas, the first item of discussion is "Huggy Bear."

            That's because Fargas' father, Antonio, starred in that role on the 1970s TV Series "Starsky & Hutch." The younger Fargas, however, chose the gridiron as his stage even though everyone known to man asks him about his father's TV role. He continued to field those questions at the Oakland Raiders' rookie mini-camp one week after the team selected him in the third round of the NFL Draft.

            "He's always been supportive," Justin Fargas said. "I'm a football player. Who knows what the future brings but right now I'm glad to be a Raider. Everywhere I go somebody brings it up every day. I'm used to it and I've dealt with it my whole life."

            Oakland drafted Fargas with an eye toward the future. Charlie Garner, who combined for 1,903 yards from scrimmage, and Tyrone Wheatley, who rushed for 419 yards, return. Both individuals, however, have passed their 30th birthday, a stage many running backs begin to wear down.

            At this stage the 6-foot, 219-pound Fargas is likely to be given a shot as a kickoff returner, where his 4.38 40-yard dash speed can be an asset while learning from the veterans in front of him.

            "I'm looking forward to learning from and watching Charlie Garner," Fargas said. "He's one of the better running backs in the league. You look at the way he runs; he's so explosive and quick. He can be a player I can learn from."

            Along with his skills, Fargas also brings durability issues. While at Michigan in 1998, he broke his right leg (tibia and fibula) against Wisconsin in the 10th game the year. His knee did not heal well, and he had to have three surgeries because of it. The first surgery required the insertion of 12 screws and two titanium rods.

After four months, the knee still was not healing properly, so his leg was rebroken, and two metal plates were inserted. The third surgery was done to fix tendons in his big toe that were damaged as a result of the breaks. He was a backup action as a running back and safety at Michigan in 2000 after sitting out the 1999 season to rehab. Fargas underwent a fourth surgery at USC in 2001 to straighten his right big toe (a residual effect from broken legs).

"The only games I went to when I was younger were Raider games back when I was younger," Fargas said referring to the team's days in Los Angeles from 1982-1994. "I never really thought I'd be playing for the Raiders. The raiders represent toughness. I've exemplified that I'm a tough person. I just want to continue to do that."

 

Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com


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