VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Rookie Kenny Duckett came to the New Orleans Saints training camp to prove a point: diabetics can play NFL football.
The 6-foot, 187-pound standout from Wake Forest has all the necessary tools to play wide receiver, including good hands, good speed and an intense desire to play. However, Duckett has one trait a wide receiver does not need - diabetes, an excess of sugar in the blood.
With an eye on bolstering his receiving ranks, head coach Bum Phillips selected Duckett in the third round of the 1982 draft. Duckett says he would have been picked sooner if he had no handicap.
'It's a risk and a lot of people didn't want to take that risk. But they didn't know the kind of person I am,' he said.
'I'm glad coach Phillips is the person that got me. I'm not going to let him down. I'm going to work as hard as I've ever worked. I'm going to show those other people they were wrong.'
Since 10th grade, the Winston-Salem, N.C., native has been ignoring doctors' advice and playing the tiring, bone-crushing sport of football.
'Football was my first love,' he said Monday. 'I didn't want to give it up, and when my mom saw what not playing was doing to me, she said, 'You know the consequences. Go on out and play and see what happens.''
What happened was a record 20 touchdowns and 2,000 yards rushing at Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, followed by three years as a starter at Wake Forest, where Duckett caught the most touchdown passes in school history.
Despite his sparkling college statistics, Duckett's road to professional football has been a bumpy one.
'It was discouraging sometimes,' he recalls.
'My first year I almost went into a coma. I thought I had to eat candy to play. Then after the season I'd been eating it every day and went in for a checkup. My sugar was so high they put me into the hospital right then.'
With years of practice monitoring his body, Duckett has become an expert at regulating sugar level even under the extreme physical conditions of college and pro football.
The intense Florida heat, which wears down every player during the grueling two-a-day workouts, has hit Duckett especially hard. He tests his urine six times daily and the team doctor checks him once more on the practice field.
'Everything I do I have to adjust,' he said. 'This is no day at the beach, but when you want something there are always obstacles.'