Former San Jose State tight end Ryan Otten became so sick from a staph infection at the Senior Bowl that he thought he was going to die.

Otten told the Sacramento Bee that a small cut on his middle finger during Senior Bowl practices turned into a grotesque, swollen mess thanks to the staph infection, but he refused to stop working because of his dream of getting to the NFL.

"I felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be out there at the Senior Bowl, and I wanted to try to battle through it," he said. "Things are going to happen -- getting sick or getting nicked. I wanted to show I was one of those guys who would keep grinding."

But Otten became so sick from the infection that he told his mother he was afraid he was going to die. He was hospitalized for two days in Alabama immediately after the Senior Bowl.

After two days in the Alabama hospital, doctors allowed Otten to fly home to California, but when he arrived, the hospital in Alabama told him his blood work showed the infection was more serious than they thought, and he needed to get to the hospital immediately. He was hospitalized for two more days in California, and though he is home now, he has to go back to the hospital every day for intravenous antibiotic treatment.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, the former Browns general manager, said this story will tell NFL teams that Otten is a tough kid.

"I think he'll get a lot of credit for that," Savage said. "There's no question that life in the NFL is not easy. It's a long, grueling season, and teams definitely take a player's temperament and toughness into consideration."