Some of the best stories of players in the NFL are those who went undrafted. Whether its a chip on their shoulder, scouts that just missed, or going to the right situation for success. That last one may be the most important. NFL fans just love an underdog story. For all the top 10 draft picks, the million-dollar signing bonuses, the advertising endorsements, who haven’t rooted for a Mr. Irrelevant to become, well relevant.
Two Buccaneer Brushes With Undrafted Greatness
In 1990 an undrafted, undersized defensive lineman out of Texas A&M-Kingsville would get a tryout with the Buccaneers. Asked by the team to consider moving to linebacker, the player would stand fast on his plans to play on the defensive line. So instead of playing with his brother Ervin Randle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, John Randle would eventually become a Minnesota Viking.
In 2014 an undrafted linebacker out of Colorado State would sign with the Denver Broncos and vacillate between being cut, being signed to the practice squad, and eventually make the 53 man roster in week seven versus the San Francisco 49ers. Playing behind Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, Shaq Barrett would start to develop his high motor and tenacious consistency.
The Next Step
Looking for a team with a history of undersized defensive lineman, and knowing that this was the position he wanted to play. John Randle was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings. He was told they would not sign him if he showed up to camp less than 250 lbs. When he weighed in, knowing he was at 240 lbs, he actually put a chain under his sweat pants. He was determined.
Playing for five seasons in a numbers game in Denver, Barrett was ready to get out on his own. Although the Broncos placed a second-round restricted free agent tag on him for the 2018 season. Barrett would become a free agent in 2019 and sign a one year, 5 million dollar contract with Tampa Bay.
From Humble Beginning to…
John Randle would become the face of a ferocious Vikings defensive line. With a gear that offensive lines could not game plan for. Over his 14-year career the kid brother from Mumford Texas would go to seven Pro Bowls, be first-team All-Pro six times. Lead the NFL in sacks in 1997. Make the NFL 100 Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as the 1990’s All-Decade Team. John Randle is also in the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor.
Signing a one year deal with the Buccaneers in 2019 was a great move for Barrett, a costly one for the Buccaneers. Barrett not only broke out of the shadow he played in for half a decade. Shaq Barrett broke Warren Sapp’s near 20-year-old team sack record and led the NFL in sacks for 2019 with 19.5. Barrett also went to his first pro bowl this year and seems poised to go to a few more. A new contract for the teams outside linebacker is no doubt on the top of General Managers Jason Licht’s to-do list.
The Lesson Boys and Girls
Watching undrafted players come out of nowhere is as American as the NFL itself. As we see with the two examples above. Sometimes the home team misses a diamond in the rough. Sometimes they get rich from finding one. Although in the next couple of weeks, it just might be Shaq Barret who gets the richest.