For every "Invincible" story of the undrafted free agent who realizes his dream and makes an NFL squad, there are many more like that of Rodney Stewart. The undrafted rookie running back out of Colorado via Columbus Brookhaven HS went down with a torn ACL just 15 minutes into his first full workout with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The injury occurred during a non-contact blocking drill. It's the second such injury for Stewart who injured the same knee while in high school. Stewart was able to recover from that injury to have a productive collegiate career for the Buffaloes. It's that confidence that keeps him going when others would be distraught:
"It's just another obstacle I've got to get through."
Stewart is referring to what he's managed to overcome thus far. After injuring his knee the first time, the recruiting buzz started to fade. Despite rushing for over 2000 yards his senior season, Stewart got little interest from hometown Ohio State.
As a freshman at Colorado, he was off to a stellar freshman season that would see him named Colorado's Male Freshman Athlete of the Year for all sports. Then, at Texas A&M, Stewart was brought down with an illegal horse collar tackle which resulted in a broken leg. He would miss the final four games of the season.
He would return for his sophomore season to be named honorable mention All-Big 12. He missed his "homecoming" however when the Buffs traveled to Toledo with an injured thigh. He would also miss considerable time during his senior season battling a variety of minor knee and ankle problems. Stewart did get to play before the home folks, rushing for 55 yards on 11 carries when the Buffs lost at Ohio State last season.
It was this injury history that kept Stewart off NFL teams' draft boards. Despite all the injuries, Stewart left Colorado as the program's second all-time leading rusher with 3598 yards, behind former Bengal Eric Bieniemy. He was the first Colorado player since Bieniemy to start games at running back during all four of his seasons.
This recovery will be aided by his being a part of the Bengals. Because the injury occurred with him under contract, he'll spend the season on the Bengals injured reserve list and have access to team doctors and facilities during his rehab. And because he's in Cincinnati, he's secured the services of Ohio State team physician, Chris Kaeding, who did the first surgery on Stewart's knee when he was in high school.
So even though the odds seem long for Stewart, he's been down this road before. At several points, he's been written off by scouts only to return and prove them wrong.
"A lot of people see me and wonder why I'm always smiling," Stewart said. "I'll tell you why. I'm always smiling because I've done dealt with tougher situations. I'm very fearless."I'm going to come back and be the same person I was in the past," Stewart said. "I've got a lot of obstacles that I've got through."
I wouldn't bet against him.
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