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An Early Belief

Posted Oct 13, 2011

Wide receiver, after long road, evolving into top target

Wide receiver Early Doucet makes one of his career-high eight catches against the Vikings.

When Early Doucet was drafted by the Cardinals in 2008, all he wanted to do was compete for a spot.

“You don’t come into the league thinking you’re going to be a Hall of Famer,” the fourth-year receiver said, and at the time, with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin entrenched and a young player named Steve Breaston emerging, Doucet wasn’t needed as much anyway.

Since then, Doucet’s journey has been less about Hall of Fame strides and more about staying in the league. His first three years have been about starts and stops because of injuries, his potential suppressed.

There may not have been a player better equipped to handle it than Doucet. Frustration built, sure. But buoyed by family support – and an unabashed nod to his religion – Doucet never seemed fazed by multiple setbacks, which included a sports hernia (and surgery) last season.

With Breaston and Boldin gone, the Cardinals have turned to Doucet. He had a career-high eight receptions last week in Minnesota, for 92 yards. He had a 100-yard receiving game in the opener (and would have had a second had a touchdown catch not been negated by a penalty), while already setting his career-best in receiving yards with 309.

“You can’t predict the future,” Doucet said. “You’ve just got to take it in stride. That’s always been my approach. I have always believed things happen for a reason so I have kept my faith in God and know He has a plan for me. Good times or bad times, I wanted to keep the same attitude. Ups and downs are part of life.”

There had been more downs for Doucet than ups. He has never played more than 10 games in a season, having missed 22 of a possible 48 in his first three seasons because of various ailments.

There has always been a belief about him, however, that has allowed him to slide into the lineup when he has returned to health. Despite his problems, the Cardinals have never considered letting him go.

“He’s been consistent enough that, when he’s in there, you know you can count on him,” receivers coach John McNulty said. “He was kind of banking all that (goodwill) in all the different spurts in which it was coming. It’s a good thing he did that.

“Some guys don’t realize you can go out and have a few bad practices and then you get hurt and miss two weeks and all people know about is the bad practice or two you had in camp. With him, when he would miss time, you didn’t have bad memories. You remembered the good player who was reliable and you were waiting for him to get back.”

Doucet’s ideal of working hard and letting the results fall as they may only works to a certain extent. He swapped numbers before the season, changing from the 80 he wore his first three years to 85 just to signify a fresh start and distance himself from his injury-riddled past.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He’s been through the ringer.”

That included the weight of being the first NFL player from his hometown of St. Martinville in Louisiana or growing up with his father mostly absent. By the time he reached the NFL and had injuries with which to deal, he had long learned to lean on his mother, sister and family members.

Never, he said, has his faith been shaken.

“I always have a smile on my face even though something might not be going the way I want it to go,” Doucet said. “I am always trying to find something positive of any situation.”

As quarterback Kevin Kolb develops more chemistry with Doucet – he was targeted 16 times against Minnesota – the wideout could end up taking on an even bigger role. If Doucet has considered such a thing, though, he isn’t letting on.

He’ll just work to be ready this week. The rest will happen as it happens.

“I have been through a lot in my life,” Doucet said, “so I am just thankful to be in the NFL period.”


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