INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Rice tight end James Casey's mother isn't alive to see he made it to the NFL Scouting Combine, but her spirit played a key role in getting him there.
Casey lost his mother, Susan, in a freak accident during his sophomore year in high school. While he was at school, a heater malfunctioned and burned down the family's trailer with his mother inside.
He lost focus before remembering the kind of person his mother wanted him to be.
``I was at a real crossroads in my life, where, 'Do I feel sorry for myself and just quit?''' he said. ``I finally realized my mom would have wanted me to pick myself up and succeed and make her proud and do something with my life and not sit around and pout.''
Casey, 24, hasn't slowed down since.
le-per-hour fastball, so he walked too many batters and got released after three years of rookie ball.
After dealing with real tragedy before, he was suited to bounce back.
``I thought it was the worst thing that could have happened, but it ended up being one of the best things that happened in my life,'' he said.
Casey then turned toward football. He chose to attend Rice because of the school's strong academic reputation and the chance to play college football at a high level.
He did just about everything during his two years at the school before declaring early for the draft. Last season, he caught 111 passes for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns, ran for 241 yards and six scores, threw two touchdown passes and returned 14 punts. He says he would do whatever an NFL team asked.
``I'm more than willing to play any position,'' he said.
Casey is fine with the way his athletic career has developed.
``I don't regret any of that,'' he said. ``I had the best time at Rice. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.''
Casey was a sophomore on the field, but a senior academically. He plans to finish school because life has taught him not to take things for granted.
to go back and get my degree.''
NO HACK: North Carolina offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds hears the tales about his uncle everywhere he goes.
Family reunions, family dinners, even total strangers.
For Reynolds, the nephew of former NFL player Jack ``Hacksaw'' Reynolds, he can't escape the legacy.
``He won't ever tell me the story about how he got the nickname, but I've heard different versions from everyone,'' Reynolds said. ``They're all about the same, so I know they're true.''
The normal version is that the elder Reynolds was so upset after his previously undefeated Tennessee team was embarrassed 38-0 at Mississippi. When Reynolds got back to Knoxville, he sawed his car in half.
The younger Reynolds acknowledges he doesn't have the same mindset.
``He's crazy,'' Reynolds said. ``I may be close, but he's a wild man.''
BIG FAMILY: Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe didn't have to fight off his brothers and sisters for food when he was growing up.
Keeping track of birthdays was a different matter because he has 15 siblings.
But Monroe didn't learn his blocking skills from fending off everyone.
``We weren't together all the time because most of my brothers and sisters are much older than me,'' Monroe said. ``All of them are much older than I am.''
ORE PEANUTS: Oklahoma guard Duke Robinson spent some of his teenage years at Atlanta Braves games.
Not watching, working.
Robinson, the great nephew of music legend Smokey Robinson, sold peanuts and ball caps from the time he was 14 years old till he entered college.
If he gets drafted on the first day in April, though, he won't be working for peanuts.
NEW OPPORTUNITY: New Detroit coach Jim Schwartz refuses to tip his hand about which way the Lions may go with the No. 1 pick.
Good idea, considering the Lions finished last season with the NFL's first winless season since 1976.
Schwartz, however, acknowledges that after missing on so many first-round picks over the past decade, Detroit has committed itself to getting this one right and starting a rebuilding process that will assure them of not having the No. 1 pick in 2010.
``You do more research and more work on a guy that would be a No. 1 pick instead of a late-round pick,'' Schwartz said. ``It's not just the money, it's an opportunity you can't let pass.''
CABLE GUY: Maybe Raiders coach Tom Cable has figured out how to co-exist with owner Al Davis.
The next step is motivating former first-round pick Jamarcus Russell into becoming the franchise quarterback Oakland expects.
der and be a starting quarterback in the NFL,'' Cable said. ``These are all grown men and they expect a certain amount of integrity and honor, if you will, in their leader. I think he's making strides that way.''
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed to this report.

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