Name: Marcus Rios
Height: 5’11" Weight: 181 lbs
Age: 22 Experience: 1st
By all accounts, Marcus Rios thought he had a sinus infection. What resulted was a fight for his life.
The defensive back at UCLA was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive fungal infection in 2013. It’s an extremely rare condition known as Invasive Aspergillosis. According to the Aspergillus Website, “Most people are naturally immune and do not develop disease caused by Aspergillus. However, when disease does occur, it takes several forms. The types of diseases caused by Aspergillus are varied, ranging from an allergy-type illness to life-threatening generalized infections.”
For those with the life-threatening disease, the Mayo Clinic says that Invasive Aspergillosis occurs when the infection spreads to blood vessels and beyond. As the LA Times said in its 2014 story about Rios, “He was hospitalized for more than two months in the spring of 2013 and, after being released, was told by doctors that they had not expected him to live.”
The symptoms first appeared in 2012, when it was initially believed to be a sinus infection. Two years later, Rios overcame the odds and returned to the football field. He saw his weight drop 50 pounds to 130. When he returned to the Bruins in 2014, he was back up to 185. That’s about where he sits right now.
"I haven't been out here for about two years," Rios told the LA Times in August 2014. "I have been thinking about it for a very long time. I took a moment, took it in and was ready to go."
From 2014-16, Rios played in UCLA’s secondary and special teams. He was signed as a undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos in the spring. It appears there’s no lasting side effects of that ultimate scare, and he’s been able to move ahead with his goal of playing in the NFL. Will it happen?
Rios has the size, length, athletic ability and nose for the ball the Broncos crave in their defensive backs. What also helps Rios in his hope to crack Denver’s roster is he has vast special teams experience. That shows he also has the attitude and mindset you want from players like Rios. In other words, whatever is asked of him, he will do.
Rios’ best year with the Bruins came in 2015. As the UCLA website highlights, Rios appeared in 13 games and made 11 starts that season. He was a honorable mention All-Pac-12 Conference selection by the coaches. Finished eighth on the team with 49 tackles. He also led the team with seven pass breakups.
In 2016, Rios saw action in all 12 games on special teams but only made two starts in the secondary.
If the Broncos get a replicate of the Rios from 2015, he has a great shot to at least make the practice squad. Rios’ interception against the University of California in 2014 is an indication of why Denver signed him.
As I said in the profile of Dontrell Nelson, the major obstacle for Rios to overcome is the depth and talent in the Broncos’ secondary. That means Rios has to stay on the field, has to outshine guys just as talented, if not more so, and do it at a consistent clip.
For a player who didn’t see much action in the Bruins’ secondary last season, that’s a tall order. As I said earlier, if he can resemble the player from 2015 in training camp and the preseason, Rios has a great shot to get on the practice squad.
There’s no doubt if Rios wants to keep his NFL dream alive, and do so with the Broncos, he’ll have to fight his ass off to make it happen.
The odds have been stacked against Rios before, only the consequences were far more severe if he lost. As he showed in that two-year fight, he will never give up.
"I definitely had a monster inside me," he told the LA Times. "Anything I can do to help people in a similar situation. I can be a witness for people who go through troubles. You get depressed, but things can get better if you stay positive. I can embrace what I have been through. I am blessed to be alive."