Curious about 5 NFL players that did not go to college? There are many players in the NFL who did not go to college and still made it to the big dance. Many of them have become breakout stars and gone on to meaningful careers in football without those extra four years in the NCAA to get noticed. These players are in an elite group who managed to get noticed before age 21, which in the land of big men is definitely saying something. So with that, it is on to the list:
- Antonio Gates. While Gates did go to college, the tight end actually went and played basketball for four years. When his talent as a basketball player didn't take him the route that he wanted to go, he turned to football and ended up getting picked up by the San Diego Chargers without playing a single down since his senior year of high school.
- Eric Swann. Swann was set to go to North Carolina State but was ruled as academically ineligible, setting his career off on a different path. Swann played for a semi-professional football team in Massachusetts before entering the draft in 1991 and going as the sixth draft pick in the first round by the Phoenix Cardinals. He never played a down in football and realized his dream through what was considered an unorthodox route, which rarely ever happens.
- Vince Papale. Most notable for being the subject of the movie "Invicible," which is based on his life, Papale was a track star in college who didn't touch a football field until he tried out for a semi-professional football team once out of college. His performance on that team earned him a meeting with Dick Vermeil of the Philadelphia Eagles. At age 30, he became the oldest rookie in professional football and played two years before a shoulder injury halted his career.
- Ray Seals. Seals didn't attend college but became quite possibly the most successful person to never set foot in an institution after starting in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The defensive end played on three different teams throughout his illustrious career and is seen as an inspiration to young players who cannot get into college to play football.
- Darren Bennett. The Australian-born Bennett contacted the San Diego Chargers while on his honeymoon in California and received a private meeting where he impressed the team enough to be offered a formal contract. He played Australian rules football for twelve seasons beforehand, but did not go to college before entering the NFL to play a prosperous number of seasons which resulted in a number of Pro Bowl starts.
These men are all inspirations to people and are proof that college isn't always the way to realize a dream. Three of these five men did not attend college at all and still went on to NFL careers, while two of them opted out of football but still found the NFL looking in their direction. While college is always a good answer to any question, these men will tell the world that sometimes heart is all that is needed.