BOCA RATON, Fla. - Toledo cornerback Cheatham Norrils has professional aspirations and rightly so but last year he was wondering if he'd ever return to the football field.
A 6-foot, 195-pound senior, Norrils is expected to play a significant role when Toledo (9-2) meets Temple (10-3) in Tuesday's Boca Raton Bowl.
He earned first-team all-Mid American Conference honors after recording 60 tackles, three interceptions and 13 breakups.
It's a remarkable recovery after Norrils missed last season when he contacted an undiagnosed viral infection that left him bed-ridden for weeks. He was unable to participate in any physical activity for months.
"It was emotional for me," Norrils said earlier this week in a phone interview, before his team departed for pre-bowl workouts in Florida. "It was a tough time, worrying about surviving and it wasn't about football and was about me being healthy."
Eventually he got cleared to play and he appreciates every day he is back on the field.
"I tell everybody every time I get a chance that I make sure to take advantage of every time I am on the field," he said. "I wouldn't say I took it for granted before, but I enjoy each and every time I am on the field."
So does his coach.
"It was a frightening thing for everybody involved when he first got ill," said Jason Candle, who was named head coach after Matt Campbell took the Iowa State job following the end of the regular season. "He has been able to bounce back and play the best football now and for all he has been through, it is really a cool story."
Even while he was away from the game, Norrils didn't let his academics slip. The son of a mother who is a Toledo police officer and a father who is approbation officer, Norrils earned his degree in May in criminal justice. He has been taking graduate courses, but before putting his degree to use, he has designs of playing in the NFL.
"I am definitely looking forward to playing at the next level," he said. "But I first just want to worry about this bowl game, and enjoy it."