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So often in the lead-up to the NFL draft, we meticulously break down players, critiquing every little aspect of their game. A quarterback might not move through his progressions quickly enough. A linebacker might not shed blocks well. Some prospects might come with injury red flags or character issues.
It can be a bit crazy how much time we spend tearing players down, nitpicking their exact measurements and analyzing their flaws before the draft. In doing so, we often overlook some of the more positive stories that can emerge with these young prospects on draft day.
So for a moment, let's instead focus on a different type of story—the inspirational story of quarterback EJ Manuel's mother, who beat cancer in February.
Jackie Manuel was diagnosed with breast cancer in August and underwent chemotherapy throughout the college football season. Somehow, her son managed to play through that difficult distraction and have a solid season, throwing for 3,392 yards and 27 total touchdowns while leading Florida State to a 12-2 record and a victory over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl.
It wasn't always easy for him, however, as coach Jimbo Fisher told Josh Kendall of Coaching Search in late December after Manuel's mother attended the Florida game for Parents' Day, when he committed four turnovers in a loss to the Gators:
It all culminated. His mama wasn't supposed to come to the Florida game, and she walked out there on the field and he hadn't seen her in eight weeks and she looked a lot different.
And for what it's worth, Florida's defense forced a lot of very good offensive players to have poor games this season.
Manuel has seen a steady rise throughout the draft process. He has ideal size and mobility to play the position, and his threat as a runner has to be appealing to teams in light of what young, athletic quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have already accomplished with the read-option.
He has the size of Ben Roethlisberger and the mobility of Cam Newton. Combine that with a strong arm, pass-first mentality and a good head on his shoulders, and Manuel should have plenty of success in the NFL.
However, the best moment of the year for Manuel surely came on Feb. 1, when he sent out the following tweet:
EJ Manuel @EJManuel3
Thank you everyone for your prayers! My mom is a #survivor! Cancer free! #GodIsGood! Can't express how happy I am2/1/2013, 9:46:34 PM
In the coming days, I'm sure we'll hear more about Jackie's valiant battle with cancer and her son's struggle to play through that distraction. At a time when we so often point out the failures and flaws of prospects while evaluating them, it's nice to tell a story about perseverance and strength.
Here's to hoping Manuel has a long and successful NFL career, and his mother remains healthy and cancer-free.