Monday, April 26, 2010

Warner, Moon And Cherry: Undrafted, But Not Defeated

The 2010 NFL Draft is over.  Some players’ dreams came true and they are still pinching themselves thinking, “this is really happening.”  Other players such as LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon; Jarrett Brown, QB, West Virginia; Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan; and Stafon Johnson, RB, USC are disappointed.  These players did not hear their name called during the draft.  A couple of them have signed as undrafted free agents since the draft ended on Saturday, but this is not a guarantee that they will play this fall.  As an undrafted free agent, they will compete to earn a spot on the team’s roster. 

Undrafted does not have to equate to failure.  These guys still could become not just professional players, but super stars in the NFL.  They will have to use their frustration to fuel their motivation to work hard and prove all of the sports pundits, general managers and coaches wrong.  For people that will say that you are just an optimist looking for a happy ending, here are a couple of players who proved all of the naysayers wrong and went from being undrafted free agents to pro bowlers.

Kurt Warner, QB – Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers, in 1994, but did not make the team.  He played a couple of years in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe before his first job on a NFL team with the St. Louis Rams whom he led to a Super Bowl Championship.  During his 12-year career, he was selected to the Pro Bowl 4 times and earned Super Bowl MVP. 

Warren Moon, QB – Went undrafted in the 1978 NFL Draft.  (Many people believe that this was because he was black quarterback and refused to switch to tight end.)  Played in the Canadian Football League for 6 years before starting in the NFL with the Houston Oilers.  He played 17 seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl 9 times.  He is enshrined in both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  He is the only African-American Quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Deron Cherry, FS - Signed as an undrafted free agent punter in 1981 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but was released.  Returned to the team as a free safety and went on to have an 11-year career.  He is third on the Chiefs’ list of most interceptions and tied for the team’s record of fumble recoveries.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times.

Not being drafted is not the end of a player’s dream to play professional football in the NFL.  With some perseverance and hard work, they can join this group of NFL players who were not defeated, by not being drafted.


Heels Helmets


  1. Every players should not have heard their name called. All of them should have signed as undrafted free agents; so that they are not a guarantee that they will play this fall. They all need to compete to earn a spot on the team’s roster.

    Just as other occupations and vocations, they should have to use PR, social skills, and physical talent. They should work hard and make it through a probationary period or a get pink slip.

    Instead of ridiculous salaries, they should have a regular evaluation period and work as at will employees too!

    P.S. Dentists, Doctors, Pharmacists, Social Workers, and Teachers all contribute to the education, health, and human services of citizens.

  2. Interesting analysis... However, NFL players do go through a "probationary period" and/or "tryout phase" as well. Its called "training camp" and the "pre-season." At the beginning of training camp, each team has approximately 80 drafted and undrafted players on their squad. By the end of training camp, after evaluating each player's skill, coachability and technique during practice and pre-season games, the team has to whittle their roster down to 53 men (plus about 8 practice squad players, who are paid just to, well, practice). (Also, even during the season, if a player isn't "cutting the mustard," he can be cut and replaced by a player picked up from another team).

    Ultimately, even drafted players are not guaranteed a roster spot. Training camp offers an opportunity for all the players, drafted and undrafted, to earn a position on the team.

    With respect to salaries, it is amazing that people can be paid such an enormous amount of money for, essentially, playing a game. But, the truth of the matter is, in this case, that is just the nature of the industry. Because the professional football industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, the athletes (i.e., the "product") are then, worth billions of dollars. From that perspective, they deserve every bit of their salaries. I think if we as consumers ever decide to stop buying season tickets, jerseys, or cable to view the games on TV, then players' salaries would decrease exponentially.

  3. Most drafted players now sign their contracts before the start of training camp, so they are challenging to start or be in a higher position on the depth chart.

    One criticism of some professional football players is that they become complacent once they sign a multi-year contract. Perhaps a real tryout (like high school athletics) each year would change this and make training camp and pre-season games more interesting.

  4. True. And, even though NFL contracts are not guaranteed, the drafted players do get pretty hefty signing bonuses...and that is probably enough to make a player rather complacent for a couple of years. Although, if he turns out to be that bad, the team could think its worth losing the signing bonus to get rid of him and cancel the contract! LOL.

  5. Good points. However, there are some rookies who are guaranteed millions before they even attend their first training camp. In particular players drafted in the top five will have signing bonuses in their contracts that are guaranteed.