NFL DraftDownload App

The 5 Most Surprising Undrafted Free-Agent Success Stories of All Time

James ChristensenContributor IJanuary 12, 2017

The 5 Most Surprising Undrafted Free-Agent Success Stories of All Time

1 of 6

    Arian Foster is only the latest example of an NFL player who rose from the ranks of the undrafted free agents to have a very successful NFL career.

    Rod Smith, Brian Waters, Jeff Saturday... the list goes on and on.

    Here are five of the more surprising stories of how some NFL stars got started on their undrafted paths.

Kurt Warner

2 of 6

    I saw Kurt Warner play at Northern Iowa. I saw him play for the Des Moines Barnstormers of the Arena League. I even shopped at the Hy-Vee supermarket where he stocked shelves. Not once did I think I was watching a future NFL MVP.

    If incumbent quarterback Trent Green of the St. Louis Rams had never suffered a terrible leg injury, Kurt Warner's story would never have been as compelling. 

    Pressed into duty in 1999, Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans while compiling some insane statistics for the time.

    Warner ended his career with over 30,000 yards and 200 touchdown passes. It sure beats cleaning up aisle four.

Wes Welker

3 of 6

    Too short. Too small. Too slow. Those same adjectives still apply to Welker, even though he is now seen as the premiere slot receiver in the NFL.

    Coming out of Texas Tech, Welker initially signed as a free agent with the San Diego Chargers, but he didn't stick with the team.

    Welker made a big enough impact during his time with the Miami Dolphins that Bill Belichick decided that if you can't beat him, sign him.

    After trading second and seventh-round choices to the Dolphins, the Patriots haven't looked back, piling up crazy statistics over the last half-decade. 

Dick Lane

4 of 6

    Dick Lane never let feeling unwanted be a problem. After being abandoned as an infant, Lane went on to serve in the Army for four years before trying his hand at football.

    His first year on the job, after a successful tryout with the Rams, Lane set an NFL record that still stands. He picked off 14 passes in just 12 games, which would still be an incredible amount with today's 16-game schedule.

    After spending time with the Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions, Lane ended his career with 68 interceptions, although he might be just as well-known for the hard hits that earned him the "Night Train" moniker.

    Lane was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974.

Adam Vinatieri

5 of 6

    The one word to describe Vinatieri is clutch. The man just wins championships.

    He won two Division II championships for South Dakota State before being signed by the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe and later the New England Patriots of the slightly more prestigious National Football League. 

    In New England, Vinatieri won three Super Bowls, two of them coming directly off of his golden right foot.

    He later signed with the Indianapolis Colts and won another Lombardi trophy. 

    When you can't fit your championship rings on one hand, you know you have had a successful football career.

Emlen Tunnell

6 of 6

    Like Lane, Tunnell spent some time in the service of his country. After two years with the Coast Guard, Tunnell played for the University of Iowa for two seasons.

    He went undrafted and had to ask John Mara for a tryout with the New York Giants. The Giants certainly made the right choice in picking him up.

    He was an eight-time All-Pro in the NFL, spending the majority of his time with the Giants while ending his playing career with the Green Bay Packers. He later returned to the Giants as a scout.

    Tunnell finished his career with 79 interceptions and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. 

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices