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Old 04-28-2008, 09:34 AM   #1
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Default The Steelers believe their second-round pick is a first-rate talent

The Steelers believe their second-round pick is a first-rate talent
Monday, April 28, 2008
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers used their second pick Saturday on Texas receiver Limas Sweed.Limas Sweed, the son of a preacher man, got most of his professional teaching from his mother. She was the sports person in the family, not his father, who really wasn't into the "whole sports thing."

But Sweed's mom, a self-avowed sports fan, knew mostly about basketball. So she wanted her son, who was 6 feet 2 in the seventh grade, to be a basketball player and pushed him in that direction.

"From the time I was born, basically, I thought I was going to be a basketball player," Sweed said. "Then I played my first football game and caught my first pass, my eyes were so big and I was so nervous ... but I can remember catching that pass and having that feeling.

"And from then on it was just football, football, football."

Turned out to be a good decision, not only for Sweed, a 6-41/2, 219-pound wide receiver from the University of Texas, but also for the Steelers, who used their second pick in the NFL draft, 53rd overall, to select him -- a player they had rated among the top 25 overall prospects in the draft.

"He made up his mind, that's what he's going to do," said Glen West, Sweed's head coach at Brenham High School in Texas. "He said, I'm going to play professional football ... With him, it was matter of fact."

After he was drafted by the Steelers, Sweed received a congratulatory call from another former Texas receiver -- Roy Williams, a player to whom Sweed has been compared.

But Williams, the seventh overall pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2004 NFL draft, is faster than Sweed, who was timed at 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.

"He's kind of been like a brother to me, a mentor," Sweed said.

There was another reason for the comparison: Sweed chose to wear No. 4 at Texas, the number Williams used to wear with the Longhorns.

"A lot of people worried when Limas tried to wear the same one," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "But he represented that number well. Limas has left a legacy at Texas. He's got great speed and great hands. We think he can be a true star in the NFL."

Curiously, Sweed had a chance to skip his final year at Texas and enter the NFL draft after the 2006 season. But he decided to return for his senior year and get his degree, even though the decision might have cost him a few bonus dollars. Bothered by a wrist problem that had been nagging him since August, Sweed had surgery to correct ligament damage and missed the final seven games last season.

The Steelers, though, are convinced Sweed's wrist injury is fully healed and will not be a problem when he gets to training camp.

Sweed ran, but did not catch passes, at the NFL's Scouting Combine in February, leading some to believe his injury was not fully healed. But, in an attempt to convince NFL scouts and coaches otherwise, he caught passes and ran again during his Pro Day workout.

Make no mistake, Sweed can run. And jump. In high school, he ran track and competed in the 110-meter high hurdles, finishing third in the state finals. The combination of size, speed, vertical leap and strength -- he could bench-press 325 pounds as a senior -- made him difficult to defend. It was the reason he had 31 touchdowns among his 71 career receptions.

Sweed began his high school career as a safety, starting as a sophomore. But when the offense got near the goal line, he was used as a receiver. He started at receiver as a junior.

"His mom really wanted him to be a basketball player because he was always a big individual," West said.

At Texas, Sweed finished second in school history with 20 touchdown catches and fifth in yards receiving (1,915). What's more, he started 39 games in a row before he had surgery Oct. 16 to correct ligament damage in his wrist and missed the final seven games of the 2007 season.

That injury may be why he slipped to the second round.

"That was unexpected," Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "Like [Rashard] Mendenhall was unexpected at No. 1."

He was smiling when he said that.

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