Cam Akers grew from his mother’s battle with breast cancer

Running back Cam Akers led Florida State in his final season with 1,144 rushing yards on 231 carries (5.0 ypc) and 14 touchdowns.

Credit: Bill Sikes

Credit: Bill Sikes

In his youth Cam Akers, one of the top running backs available in the NFL draft, watched his mother, Angela Neal, battle breast cancer.

“It just taught me to never complain,” said Akers, who was 11 at the time. “Seeing my mom go through breast cancer — she’s a survivor now — but her going through breast cancer taught me there’s not much to complain about in life, seeing her fight and knowing it was for her children. She said that all the time. It made me a fighter.”

Akers drew inspiration from his mother’s battle. She gave him some advice before meeting with NFL teams, including the Falcons, at the scouting combine. The draft is set to be held April 23-25.

» MORE: Top running backs in NFL Draft

“She just told me to be me,” Akers said. “Be confident, know who I am and just stand on that. Be the young man that I am and be confident with that.”

After breaking Dalvin Cook’s FSU freshman rushing record, things got a little bumpy at Florida State and the eventual firing of coach Willie Taggart.

“I say it’s all God’s plan,” Akers said. “You can’t question it. You play the cards you’re dealt. When you start to question God, that’s when the situation you’re in becomes a reality. I never question God. I always stay true to my faith. I keep working.”

Akers showed his versatility for the Seminoles and patterns his game after two NFL double-threat running backs.

“I definitely watch Zeke (Elliott of the Cowboys) as far as an all-around back, being able to catch, run and block,” Akers said. “And (Saints running back) Alvin Kamara definitely in the passing game, the way he’s elusive when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Akers doesn’t shy away from blocking.

“You can’t play in this league if you can’t block, and I learned that early in college,” Akers said. “I have a good understanding of that and I know that’s something I’ve got to be sharp on.

Most have Akers as the third rated running back behind Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift.

“He's talented,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I've got him — I broke down the running backs and … I had them in different tiers. He's in my second tier. I had Swift, (LSU’s Clyde) Edwards-Helaire and (Ohio State’s J.K.) Dobbins in my top tier.”

Jeremiah is not as high on Taylor, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the combine.

“And I have Taylor and Akers just right below that,” Jeremiah said. “He runs really hard.”

Akers was able to shine through the tough times at Florida State.

“They just weren’t any good. Florida State wasn’t any good,” Jeremiah said. “And sometimes when you’re a player that’s on a team and a program that’s in a place that that program was at last year, he had all the reason in the world to shut it down and he didn’t do it, which told me a lot about him as a competitive kid. I think teams like him as well. I think he’s a really good football player.”

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper ranks Swift as the top running back in the draft.

“It’s the completeness as a runner, receiver, blocker and ball security,” Kiper said. “(In) all four areas, he comes out on top ahead of J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor. Now, Dobbins is a fierce runner. I think he’s the best pure runner. He and Jonathan Taylor are the two best pure runners. When we go to hands, Swift gets the edge over both.”

Taylor must improve his ball security.

“Eighteen fumbles, 15 lost at Wisconsin, that’s a concern,” Kiper said. “He lost a fumble against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. … He dropped a swing pass in that game as well.”

Kiper projects that Swift could go as high as 14th to Tampa Bay or could go to Miami, who holds the 18th and 26th picks in the first round.

“Then guess what, the problem is, if you don’t go to Tampa or Miami, what other team is going to prioritize running back to take a D’Andre Swift if Tampa or Miami don’t,” Kiper said. “That’s the tough part. You know Swift is one of the best 20 players in this draft … it’s just finding a fit for a running back when most teams are well fortified at that position (that is difficult).”

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