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Local players working toward an NFL dream

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Two have signed with NFL teams while one has workouts planned.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The NFL dream doesn't just belong to Maurice Clarett and the army of hopefuls ready to show their wares at the combine.
At the Jump Stretch Fitness Center a trio of young men work out three times a week in the hope of earning a check playing Sunday afternoons.
Two of them, Deryck Toles and Carl Diggs from Warren, have been friends since they were Little League teammates a dozen years ago. The third is Mitch Fusek, a Canfield-born 22-year old who will graduate from Malone College in May.
Toles, 24, is a graduate of Warren Harding High and Penn State. He is 6-foot, 230 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds. In January he signed a three-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
Diggs also played at Harding and later at Michigan. In December he was signed as a free agent by the Chicago Bears as an inside linebacker.
Diggs came to Jump Stretch founder Dick Hartzell following his senior season at Michigan in 2002, after he broke his right lower leg against Ohio State.
"I wish Deryck told me about them a long time before he did because now I feel comfortable with my body and feel good about my future," said Diggs, who is optimistic about his pro future. "The biggest thing is to get into a camp and then if you really want it you work hard for it and show them that you can play."
Hoping for a shot
Fusek was a three-year starter at wide receiver and defensive back at Canfield, but because of his size (5-11, 175) he wasn't highly recruited. Instead, he went to Malone where he started for four seasons in the defensive backfield.
On Tuesday, Fusek will be at Youngstown State's Pro Day and on March 30 he will work out for the the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers at Malone.
Fusek now weighs about 195 pounds and can run the 40 in 4.52.
"My goal is to get a shot, go to camp and show them what I can do," said Fusek.
"I know that I am at a disadvantage coming from a small school, so I just have to work harder."