'There are freaks of nature, but not enough to fill an NFL roster'



Common sense and science have been warning for some time that we're pushing athletes toward the limits of size, speed and toughness without regard for how they get there, or stay there. Even so, there remains no shortage of kids willing to risk everything for the opportunity. By most accounts, 23-year-old Thomas Herrion was one of those. He hung on with the Dallas Cowboys until the final cuts at training camp last fall, played in NFL Europe earlier this year, spent much of the summer working out in the sweltering East Texas heat and was chasing a spot on San Francisco's roster when he collapsed and died just a few minutes after walking off the field after a preseason game in Denver late Saturday night. The reason Herrion worked so hard to stick with the 49ers, he told pals, was so he could buy a house for his mother.