NFL Training Camp: The 5 Best Training Camp Success Stories in League History
With NFL training camps starting in just over a week, there will certainly be plenty of surprises along the way. Players that shouldn't make the team will, and players that were expected to be backups will become starters.
That is the beauty of training camp; it's fair game.
Whether it is a late-round draft pick becoming a starter or a future Hall of Famer getting a second chance with a new team, there are plenty of incredible success stories from NFL training camps.
Here are the five best stories in NFL history.
Terrell Davis Rises from Sixth on Depth Chart
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
To start your NFL career as a sixth-round draft pick usually isn't ideal. What makes it even worse is when you start training camp as the sixth-string running back.
This is how Terrell Davis started his career with the Denver Broncos, but even jumping over five players over the course of training camp and preseason wasn't too tall a task. Although he started mostly as a special teams player, Davis' work ethic and physical play got the attention of head coach Mike Shanahan.
Davis was promoted to starting running back before the season opener and went on to rush for over 1,100 yards as a rookie. It would only be three years later that Davis would rush for 2,008 in the 1998 season.
While Davis' career was cut short by a string of injuries, his journey from No. 6 running back to NFL and Super Bowl MVP was due to his hard work in training camp as a rookie.
Shannon Sharpe Is Too Small
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Being 6'1" and 221 pounds isn't the ideal size for a tight end. In fact, Shannon Sharpe was too small for a tight end and too big for a wide receiver, which made the likelihood of him seeing the field extremely minute.
However, Sharpe went into training camp focused on proving everyone wrong. According to an article from Mike Klis of The Denver Post, when Sharpe heard about people doubting him he said, "I'm alright. This is going to make me work harder. That's all."
Sharpe worked extremely hard off the field to gain weight, but some luck is what really paid off in the end. The Denver Broncos suffered a string of injuries at tight end, allowing Sharpe to finally see the field.
The rest is history, as Sharpe put together one of the finest careers for a tight end in NFL history. In February of last year, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Pittsburgh Cuts Johnny Unitas
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
It may be hard to believe that one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time was a training camp success story, but that is what happened with Johnny Unitas.
Unitas was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955, but the Steelers didn't feel that Unitas was going to be a successful professional player, so they let him go. Instead of giving up, Unitas continued to hone his craft with the Bloomfield Rams, making just $6 per game.
The Baltimore Colts came calling the following season, and Unitas had to borrow money in order to make the drive out to training camp. This time, instead of being cut, he made the team as a backup to George Shaw.
Four games into the 1956 season, Shaw suffered a broken leg, so Unitas was called upon as his replacement. He'd go on to lead the Colts to two world championships, win three MVP awards and become a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Jahri Evans Goes from Mid-Round Pick to All-Pro
Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images
There are plenty of success stories involving offensive linemen switching positions from college to the NFL, but few are as incredible as that of Jahri Evans.
For starters, Evans didn't go to a Division I school; he went to Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa. However, that wasn't the only thing working against him. Coming into the 2006 NFL draft, he was seen as a major developmental pick because he was projected as a guard in the NFL instead of offensive tackle, which is where he played in college.
The New Orleans Saints drafted Evans in the fourth round (much higher than anyone expected), and everyone thought that it would take years for Evans to see time on the field. But during his first training camp, thanks to hard work and an injury, Evans won the starting right guard job for the Saints.
He has since become one of the best right guards in the entire NFL, being voted to three straight All-Pro teams.
John Randle Won't Get Rejected Twice
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Coming out of Texas A&M-Kingsville, John Randle was seen as too small to play defensive tackle and too big to play defensive end in the NFL, which is why he went undrafted coming out of college.
After being initially rejected by all 32 teams during the draft, Randle got an opportunity to work out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers were unimpressed by his size and decided to not give him a contract.
But like every good story, Randle got a second chance to prove his worth with the Minnesota Vikings. This time during training camp, Randle greatly impressed the staff in Minnesota and was signed to a contract.
He played all 16 games in 1990, his first season with the team, mostly as a backup. The following season, he was a starter and recorded 9.5 sacks. He'd quickly become one of the most dangerous pass-rushers in NFL history, despite only being 6'1" and 287 pounds.