WR Out To Prove He's Beyond Leg Injury

Craphonso Thorpe had a tremendous junior season as a wide receiver at Florida State, but his recovery from a leg injury hindered his production in 2004. Now, after a solid pro day, his draft stock could be on the rise, and the Vikings were among the teams spotted showing a particular interest. Thorpe talked about his recovery and his quest to show his desire for football in the NFL.

The advice from NFL coaches can mold a future career. Inspiration comes from many and the words from a Hall of Famer can mean so much to a young career.

It was all that and more for Craphonso Thorpe when San Diego Chargers' wide receivers coach James Lofton came up to him and talked about the wide receiver position.

"It was a very humbling experience to meet some of these guys that I am meeting," Thorpe said. "I never really met them and now I am a talking to them and they are saying they want to meet with me and holding conversations with me. It is humbling."

Thorpe may get the opportunity to meet new Vikings wide receivers coach Wes Chandler, who molded a Pro Bowl career as a receiver with the Chargers, as well. The Vikings were among approximately 10 teams that wanted to talk to Thorpe after he ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash Tuesday at the Florida State pro day. Also in the mix were the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons. It was the second time the Rams met up with Thorpe, greeting him at the Senior Bowl as well. The Vikings' interest is derived from their desire to put a deep threat opposite Nate Burleson, who is currently the team's No. 1 wide receiver after the Randy Moss trade.

Thorpe didn't work out in Indianapolis because of a blister on the back of his heel, but his 40 time on a fast track in Florida could very well have dispelled any misconceptions related to his past injuries.

Thorpe had a disappointing senior year but is one of those players that is looking to make a statement on the next level. He reminds a little of Laveranues Coles, a kid with loads of potential who suffered a setback and lasted until the third round. Coles went on to play for the New York Jets and has had a solid career as a No. 1 receiver.

Thorpe suffered a leg injury during his senior campaign, robbing him of the momentum he had begun with a superb junior year. After amassing 51 catches and 11 touchdowns as a junior despite missing the final two games, he was limited to 40 receptions and just two touchdowns in 2004. He entered his senior year as an All-America and Biletnikoff Award candidate, but his recovery from his leg injury slowed his production last fall.

Thorpe has no regrets and doesn't look back on it with disappointment. He is happy to be able to strap his helmet on and compete, one of the reasons he thought it was imperative to come to the Senior Bowl.

"I feel like I was blessed to be on the field," said Thorpe. "A lot of people had the same injury I had and never bounced back from it and aren't able to play again."

When he came to Mobile, Thorpe had a lot to prove.

Was he healthy? Was the trademark explosion back?

"Yeah, because I came back two months early from my injury and I feel like pretty much the entire season I wasn't healthy except the Bowl game against West Virginia," he said. "I am trying to show them that I am the same wide receiver they saw in '03."

That receiver had seven of his 11 touchdown grabs on plays of at least 25 yards, and had two games where he secured 200-plus receiving yards.

That's the same man who won the 100 and 200 at the ACC Outdoor Track Championships in the spring of 2003 to lead FSU to the men's title and was named ACC Outdoor Track Performer of the Year.

Team doctors were wary, as is their right, and put Thorpe through a comprehensive check at the Combines in Indianapolis last month. Thorpe endured hours in front of team doctors, pulling him this way and that and the MRI's that go with it.

"It was just time," Thorpe began. "It was a process and took time."

By playing through the pain, Thorpe, now the seventh-ranked wide receiver in the draft, according to Scout.com, may have turned some heads his way. True, his numbers were down, but he showed that no matter the ailment, he will be out there on the field fighting for the team.

"It showed my willpower, my drive, my strength and love for the game to play through that kind of pain and still be productive," he said.

Tim Yotter also contributed to this report.

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