Don’t think you’ll hear your name called in this year’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday in Texas? Relax. Provided you played college football at a reasonably high level, you could still become an All-Pro or even a Hall of Famer.
Need inspiration? Check out this squad of 24 guys whose careers prove the draft is overrated, GMs are just guessing and attitude counts for a whole lot more than where you were picked—or if you were picked at all.
Good luck finding a team of first-rounders that could hang with this squad…
(We’re rolling with a pretty standard formation: two WRs and a TE. Also known as the missionary position of NFL offenses.)
QB: Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa, 1994). Didn’t start for UNI till his senior season. Grocery clerk. Iowa Barnstormer. Then: Super Bowl MVP. Four-time Pro Bowler. Two-time AP NFL MVP. And one hell of a dancer.
RB: Priest Holmes (Texas, 1997). A three-time All-Pro and one-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year with the Chiefs. For about five seasons in Missouri, Holmes was bigger than Harry Truman.
FB: Marion Motley (Nevada, 1942). A bruising 232-pounder for the Browns, Motley once rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries against the Steelers. SI’s Dr. Z has called him the best player in the history of football.
WR: Wes Welker (Texas Tech, 2004). A former soccer star, the five-foot-nine-inch Welker racked up more all-purpose yards in his first three years with the Dolphins than anybody in NFL history, save Gale Sayers. Did OK with the Patriots, too.
WR: Rod Smith (Missouri Southern State, 1994). Fourteen NFL seasons with Denver. Eight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. And back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
TE: Antonio Gates (Kent State, 2003). Gates averaged 20.6 points per game his senior year on the basketball court and led his Golden Flash to the Elite Eight. Then he switched to football and made eight Pro Bowls.
OT: Jason Peters (Arkansas, 2004). Signed by the Bills as a tight end, Peters packed on a few more pounds and transformed himself into an nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle who recently picked up a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles.
OT: Joe Jacoby (Louisville, 1980). Founding member of the Redskins’ vaunted “Hogs” O-line and winner of three Super Bowls.
OG: Nate Newton (Florida A&M, 1984). Pre-stomach staple, he helped protect Troy Aikman on the way to three Super Bowl titles.
OG: Larry Little (Bethune-Cookman, 1967). A member of the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team. Helped the Dolphins win two Super Bowls. Made Don Shula look like a genius.
C: Jeff Saturday (North Carolina, 1998). In his prime, this six-time Pro Bowler was one of the best centers in the league. Any day of the week.
(We’re rocking a 3-4, with one DE, three CBs and a safety. Deal with it.)
DT: John Randle (Texas A&I—Kingsville, 1990). Six first-team All-Pro selections and 137.5 sacks with the Vikings. Entered Canton in 2010, sans face paint.
DT: Pat Williams (Texas A&M, 1997). One-half of the “Williams Wall.” A three-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings.
DE: Adewale Ogunleye (Indiana, 2000). Ogunleye racked up 67 sacks in his career. Not bad for the son of a Nigerian city-state king.
LB: Antonio Pierce (Arizona, 2001). Pro Bowler. Super Bowl champ. United Way Man of the Year. Tiki hater.
LB: London Fletcher (John Carroll, 1998). Just another great NFL player from John Carroll University.
LB: Bart “Can’t Wait” Scott (Southern Illinois, 2002). The poster boy for Rex Ryan’s killer defenses in Baltimore and New York.
LB: James Harrison (Kent State, 2002). Just watch the video above.
CB: Dick Lane (Scottsbluff Junior College, 1948). “Night Train” set an NFL record for most INTs in his rookie year and was named a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Yes, we said “All-Time.”
CB: Emlen Tunnell (Iowa, 1948). Paid his way to New York, walked on with the Giants, and finished his career with a then-record 79 INTs. Also the first African-American inducted into the Hall of Fame. Money.
CB: Willie Brown (Grambling, 1963). Cut by the Oilers, Brown found his way to the Raiders, where he was part of the most feared secondary in NFL history. You did not want to go across the middle against him.
S: Willie Wood (USC, 1960). A QB at USC, Wood couldn’t get a tryout, so he started writing letters to teams. The only guy who responded: Vince Lombardi. Wood repaid him with eight Pro Bowl seasons and five NFL championships.
P: Jeff Feagles (Miami, 1988). Played 22 seasons. Most punts, career. Most punts inside the 20, career. Most punting yards, career. Take that, Reggie Roby.
K: Adam Vinatieri (South Dakota State, 1995). Probably the best clutch kicker in NFL history. Two Super Bowl-winning kicks and a total of four rings. And at 45, he’s still kicking!