The National Football League invests millions of dollars each season scouting for the best collegiate talent available for the 2013 draft.
Without fail, a player will slip through the cracks because he was considered too slow, too small or too something that caused the scouts to give him a less than favorable grade. Chances are, a recent injury may have played a role in that player's performance for the scouts or another undisclosed matter could have factored into the equation.
Well, I've decided to compile an All Pro team with players from different eras. More than a few who made it into the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio that were viewed as not talented enough to be selected in the NFL draft lottery.
The team that I have assembled has a complete offense and defense. Your opinion may differ from mine. All of the players that I have selected were not drafted with the exception of one, who was picked in the 27th round of the NFL Draft.
TE-Antonio Gates- He put an entirely different spin on the position (along with Tony Gonzalez) by coming from a college basketball background. He has been in eight Pro Bowls. The 6'4-260 product out of Kent State University has accumulated 593 grabs for 7,783 yards and 76 scoring catches.
OL-Brian Walters- The North Texas alum appeared in a half-dozen Pro Bowls spanning his 13 seasons in the NFL trenches. In 2004, he achieved something virtually unheard of in today's game: Walters was named the AFC offensive player of the week as guard.
OL-Larry Little- A free agent signee with the San Diego Chargers before given his walking papers. Little saw his NFL career flourish after a 1969 trade to Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins. He went on to earn five Pro Bowls, a pair of Super Bowl rings and a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1993.
OL-Jim Langer- He played collegiately at South Dakota State. The center prospect signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1970 and was cut soon thereafter but caught on with Shula and the Dolphins. He became a starter in '72, the team's unprecedented undefeated season. Langer played in 151 games and was a six-time Pro Bowler. He was a vital part of three Super Bowl teams with Miami and a member of what was considered perhaps the most dominant offensive line in NFL history. The Jim Langer Award now recognizes the top NCAA Division II lineman of the year each season.
OL-Rosy Brown- The only player on this team of stars who was drafted (27th round of 1963 draft by NY Giants), Brown was NFL lineman of the year in 1956. The 6'3-255 product out of Morgan State University blocked for legendary Giants stars Frank Gifford, Alex Webster and Y.A. Tittle. Rosy was a nine-time Pro Bowler and helped the G-Men capture the 1956 NFL title. He played in 163 pro contests and has been recognized as the 57th best player on Sporting News top 100 Greatest Players all-time.
OL-Jeff Saturday- The prototype NFL center is still toiling away in the National Football League in his 15th season. He was signed as a undrafted free agent in '98 by the Ravens but was cut. Picked up by Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts, Saturday has gone on to five Pro Bowls and is still playing with the Green Bay Packers.
WR-Wes Welker- Now with New England Patriots in his ninth campaign out of Texas Tech, the 5'9-185 mighty mite was once cut by the San Diego Chargers. He has gone on to to prove that was a major mistake. Welker is the only receiver in NFL history to record 110 catches in three separate seasons.
WR/KR-Michael Lewis- This overachiever makes this team due to his outstanding, record-setting return skills. The "Beer Man" (a nickname given to the New Orleans antive due to his job as a beer delivery man before his pro football life) earned a tryout with the New Orleans Saints after stints in semi-pro football and the Arena League. His sub-4.3 forty speed was his ticket to the NFL where he became only the 7th player in league history to return a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in one game. He set an NFL record for most combined kickoff and punt return yardage in one season (2,432 yards). Lewis completed his career with 385 returns (punt and kickoff) for an impressive 7,385 yards during his seven-year career with New Orleans.
WR-Wayne Chrebet- The 11 year performer out of Hofstra arrived after not hearing his name called during the '95 NFL Draft. With the New York Jets, he accumulated 580 catches for 7,365 yards, third best all-time among undrafted receivers. His career high was 12 grabs for 162 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville in 1996.
WR-Rod Smith- The ex-Denver Bronco made it to three Pro Bowls plus a pair of Super Bowls. He played from 1995-2007 in the Mile High City in 183 contests with 849 career catches for 11,389 yards and 68 scores as the lead wideout for a perrenial contender.
WR-Vince Papale- Not a stat guy, Papale was a prime example of perseverance and results. He went from semi-pro to tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles at age 30 to become the oldest rookie in league history. He played in only 3 seasons ('76-78) but was voted Eagles special teams captain and man of the year in 1978.
QB-Kurt Warner- The twice league MVP and former Super Bowl MVP has a story most football fans know well. He owns three of the highest single-game passing yardage marks in Super Bowl History, finishing with over 32,000 career yards after serving as a grocery stockboy and barnstorming as a QB in the Arena League.
QB-Warren Moon- A member of the Canadian Football League and Pro Football (American) Halls of Fame, the nine-time Pro Bowler was the 1990 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He threw for more yards as a professional quarterback than anyone in history until his record was surpassed by the CFL's Damon Allen in 2006.
RB-Arian Foster - The former undrafted NFL Free Agent is a poster child for rags-to-riches running backs. As one of the premier backs in the game today, the former Tennessee Vol is a two-time Pro Bowler in his fourth campaign. He has scored 29 touchdowns to date as a professional and is a workhorse back for a Super Bowl contender.
RB-Priest Holmes- Undrafted out of the University of Texas in 1997, he had a fabulous 2002 season with 1,615 yards and 21 touchdowns. After struggling to find playing time in college, Holmes was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He also had 27 scores in 2003. Holmes and Emmitt Smith are the only players in league history to rush for 20-plus touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.
FB-Marion Motley- This legend of the game overcame racism, breaking the color barrier in 1946. The huge (at that time) 6'1-238 battering ram totaled 4,720 yards and 31 touchdowns during his career with the Cleveland Browns. He served in WWII, joining the Browns to help quarterback Otto Graham, receiver Dante Lavelli and OT/PK Lou Groza capture an NFL title in 1950 after the franchise dominated the defunct All-American Football Conference.
DL-John Randle- After a failed tryout with the Bucs in 1980, he finished his illustrious career with 137.5 sacks and seven Pro Bowls with the Vikings and Seahawks. He joined the elite in Canton, Ohio in 2010.
DL-Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb- Undrafted but signed by the Los Angeles Rams, Big Daddy did not play college football, instead opting for the Marines. After three seasons on the west coast, he found himself in a Colts uniform where he was twice chosen for the Pro Bowl during his five years in Baltimore. He finished his NFL days with the Steelers for two seasons. At 6'6 and over 300 pounds, Lipscomb was a dominating presence in the NFL even chasing down running backs from behind 20 yards downfield.
Rumor has it that a typical breakfast for Lipscomb was a dozen eggs and a pound of bacon, chased down by a bottle of whiskey.
DL-Jim Lee Hunt- One of only 20 players to spend his entire 10 year career in the American Football League, the 5'11-260 playmaker earned the AFL record with the most fumble recoveries. He is a member of the Patriots franchise Hall of Fame and had his jersey #79 retired by the team.
DL-Ben Davidson- He was recognized by his signature handle bar mustache and his numerous commercials for Miller Lite beer as well as his movie roles (one being in the 1970 smash hit "MASH." But Big Ben spent 11 seasons in pro football after getting a look-see by the then-World Champion Green Bay Packers in 1961. Vince Lombardi didn't see any value in the 6'8-275 specimen out of the University of Washington. Davidson spent two seasons with the Redskins ('62-63) before his journey took him to the Oakland Raiders. He was a three-time AFL all-star.
LB-London Fletcher- A three-time Pro Bowler, Fltecher (5'10-238) still cuts an imposing presence in the league. He was a member of the Super Bowl Champion Rams in XXXIV. Undrafted in 1998, he was inked by the Rams and was named the team's Rookie of the Year. He led St. Louis with 138 tackles in 1999. In 2000, he topped that with a 193 tackle season. Fletcher spent time with the Bills (2002-06) before becoming a member of the Redskins in 2007. He has 1,905 career stops and 35 sacks, 21 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. A consistent performer, he has been an alternate for the Pro Bowl 11 times.
LB-James Harrison- Perhaps one of most violent tacklers in all of pro football, the nine-year veteran earned his fifth Pro Bowl start last season. The 6'0-242 force out of Kent State originally was signed as a free agent by the Ravens after spending time in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire. He was a major player for the Super Bowl Champion XLVIII Steelers in 2008 when Harrison displayed tremendous athleticism by returning a 100-yard interception for a touchdown against Arizona.
LB-Sam Mills- The 5'9-225 tightly packed stick of dynamite spent nine seasons with the Saints ('86-94) and three with the Panthers. He was a five time Pro Bowler and a four-time All Pro. His jersey #51 was retired by Carolina, where a statue of the "Field Mouse" stands outside of the stadium. Sam was a game changer and a play maker at middle linebacker. He finished with 1,319 career stops and 11 interceptions. The opposing offense had to constantly be aware of where he was stationed. He played with the USFL Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars before his NFL success. At age 16-17 in high school, he was the district prep champion wrestler. While at Montclair State, he recorded 501 career tackles, with 22 coming in one game.
Mills was cut by the Cleveland Browns; coach Sam Rutigliano said so-long to Sam in favor of keeping future Steelers coach Bill Cowher for the last linebacker spot on the team.
A Louisiana Hall of Fame, New Jersey Hall of Fame, Saints Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Mills shined in Black & Gold along with fellow 'backers Pat Swilling, Vaughn Johnson and Rickey Jackson. They formed the "Dome Patrol," called the top linebacking unit in NFL history.
Sam was the oldest NFL player (at 37 years, 174 days) to return a fumble for a touchdown.
DB-Willie Brown- The cornerback made four Super Bowl appearances. Undrafted FA out of Grambling, he eventually became a 1984 Canton inductee.
DB-Donnie Shell- Earning five Pro Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was a prominent member of the vaunted Steel Curtain defense. A part of four Super Bowl championship teams, the hard hitting safety had 201 career appearances, second in franchise history behind center Mike Webster. His 14-year Steeler career began as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina State in 1974.
DB-Willie Wood- The three-time NFL champ with Green Bay Packers (1961-62, '65) shined during his 12 year career (1960-71) after going undrafted out of USC.
DB-Dick "Night Train" Lane- He played with the L.A. Rams, Chicago Cardinals and the Detroit Lions. Affectionately remembered for his violent "necktie" tackle which has since been outlawed, Lane played until age 38. A seven-time Pro Bowler, the ballhawk totaled 68 career interceptions, 1,207 tackles and five touchdowns. He was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974 and named the best cornerback during the first 50 years of the NFL's existence. He ranks 19th on Sporting News' Greatest 100 players of all-time; the only Detroit Lion who ranks higher is Barry Sanders.
Lane was undrafted but signed as a 24 year old prospect by the Rams despite the fact that there were 30 rounds at that time, Lane eanred a nickname that came about due to his fear of flying, which caused him to catch night trains to road games. He wore jersey #81 because he had a desire to play receiver, but the Rams already had legends Tom Fears and "Crazy Legs" Hirsch entrenched there. Lane set an NFL record with 14 interceptions in only a 12-game season.
DB-Emlen Tunnel- The first African American to play for the New York Giants, he made eight Pro Bowls out of nine seasons in the Big Apple. His 79 career interceptions rank him secod in league history behind only former Vikings safery Paul Krause (81 picks).
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