Despite having multiple sclerosis, undrafted lineman wants to play
April 28, 2004
The Press Democrat
The 49ers have reportedly invited undrafted rookie offensive lineman Khiawatha Downey of Indiana (Pa.) University to participate in their first full-squad minicamp, which runs May 7-9.
Downey was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago.
Despite his athleticism and size, Downey (6-foot-4, 330 pounds) was not selected in last weekend's NFL Draft. Downey's agent, Joe Linta, sent every team in the league a waiver document to free them of any liability associated with MS, according to an ESPN.com report.
The 49ers were the only team to show any interest in him, the Web site reported. The minicamp will serve as a tryout for Downey, who hopes to be offered a contract and compete for a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. rated Downey as the 13th-best offensive guard eligible for the draft.
Downey attended the University of Pittsburgh out of high school, starting 11 games at left guard in 1999. He moved to right tackle in 2000, starting the final seven games of the season.
But after suffering from numerous stingers, Downey underwent medical tests that diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis. He did not play in '01, and transferred to Indiana, an NCAA Division I-AA school, where he lined up at guard, tackle, center and played some defense in the '02 playoffs.
He started every game as a senior, the first six at guard and the final five at tackle.
Downey is expected to be among 10 to 15 undrafted players hoping to earn a spot on the team at the minicamp.
The 49ers did not draft a running back to compete for the backup job behind Kevan Barlow, but they have agreed to terms with a player who has a chance to earn a roster spot.
Jason Wright, who rushed for 1,388 yards and 20 touchdowns at Northwestern, reportedly agreed to a $15,000 signing bonus to join the 49ers. He is expected to compete with Jamal Robertson for the backup job.
According to various reports, other undrafted players agreeing to terms with the 49ers include safety Lawrence Taylor and kicker Kirk Yliniemi, both of Oregon State; receiver P.J. Fleck and cornerback Randee Drew, both of Northern Illinois; receiver Fred Stamps (Louisiana-Lafayette), and linebacker Renauld Williams (Hofstra).
Free-agent receiver D'Wayne Bates, a five-year veteran, visited the
49ers on Tuesday. Bates, whom the Minnesota Vikings recently released,
caught 15 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown last season.
Copyright © 2004, The Press Democrat