Whatever Comes to Pass Is Fine With Fernandez : Raiders: He might not be the star that he was in the Canadian Football League, but he's happy with his contribution.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In another time, he was Swervin' Mervyn Fernandez, one of the greatest receivers the Canadian Football League will ever know. He was a one-man highlight film, the toast of the tundra.

Sometimes it seems like another life. Since joining the Raiders in 1987 after five star-filled years with the British Columbia Lions, Fernandez has become one of the NFL's best-kept secrets.

If he had a nickname now, it might be Mervyn The Dependable. Fernandez has led the team in receptions the last two seasons, yet he blends dutifully into a Raider backdrop of superstars and subplots.

Last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, as the Raiders threatened to banish the forward pass from their playbook by using seven offensive linemen, Fernandez somehow squeezed in seven receptions for 90 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown.

When did he find the time?

Fernandez once dominated football conversations in Canadian provinces. In 1985, he caught 95 passes for 1,727 yards and 15 touchdowns. Now, he lurks happily in the shadows.

"I don't really miss it," he said of the limelight. "Without a doubt, I was the big fish in the little pond (in Canada). Down here, I mean, you've got basketball, baseball, football, horse racing. On this team alone, you've got three Heisman Trophy winners, you've got the Howie Longs. . . . "

Which doesn't leave much ink for the Fernandezes. On another team, in an another offense, he might catch 80 passes per season, instead of the 50 or so he hauls in each season for the Raiders.

"That's not really what it's all about," he said. "I'm getting paid, and I'm doing well, and I'm contributing to the team, and we're winning. That's the bottom line. I didn't come here to catch 100 balls a season. Not that that wouldn't be nice. But I knew what kind of offense they had when I came here. It wasn't a surprise."

Publicity might be nice, but fame also has its price. Fernandez gets a front-row perspective each week when he and teammate Ronnie Lott share a plane ride to the Bay Area to visit their families.

Fernandez attended San Jose State and still lives in the area. Lott, for 10 years a superstar with the San Francisco 49ers, resides in Cupertino.

"He can barely get on the plane," Fernandez said. "It's 'Ronnie Lott this,' and 'Ronnie Lott that.' I get on the plane, sit down, have me a soda, get off the plane, go to my car and go home. . . . No, I don't miss it."

Fernandez takes satisfaction in a solid day's work and a job well done. It's news when he drops a pass. He dropped one against the Colts and was so mad he slammed his helmet to the turf in anger.

"You don't catch the ball and you're not going to be around long," he said.

Fernandez, 31, almost found out the hard way when he arrived in 1987, his reputation already made. Fernandez had a rough first year, when he dropped a few passes early, endured a players' strike, suffered a shoulder injury and finished with 14 catches.

The next spring the Raiders drafted receiver Tim Brown, the Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame. In July, they traded draft choices to the Chicago Bears for Willie Gault.

The Raiders already had James Lofton, Dokie Williams and Jessie Hester.

It could make a CFL player nervous.

"I knew they drafted Tim and brought Willie in," he said. "I just had to go out and play. If my talents weren't good enough, then they'd get rid of me or do something else. But I guess I was good enough to run with the big boys."

Fernandez has survived them all. Today, he is still good enough to keep Brown out of the starting lineup.

"I think I have pretty good hands and good concentration," he said. "I pride myself on it, because I'm not one of the fastest guys in the league. But I think I run good routes and catch balls."

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