20 Athletes You Had No Idea Weren't Drafted
Okay, so maybe you did know. But a few years have passed since the various drafts referenced in this article took place. Many of these athletes amassed Pro Bowl and All-Star Game appearances, trophies and rings, fame and fortune. They were front-page gossip news as they dated models, actresses and singers. Videos of their jaw-dropping dunks, blocks, home runs, catches or passes went mega-viral.
Their feats helped them shed their cloaks of undrafted-ness. And to tear free the mediocrity label that came with those cloaks.
These were the stigmatized, the forsaken, the overlooked...the stars that weren't suppose to shine so brightly.
Click on to see their radiance.
Honorable Mention: Frank Herrmann
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Honorable Mention: Jimmy Conrad
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"Conrad's career has not exactly taken your normal path, from a barely recruited high school player to NCAA champion, from undrafted MLS player to the league's Defender of the Year, from buying a ticket to watch national-team games to fighting for a spot on the 2006 World Cup roster."
The once-overlooked Conrad wound up having a long and award-studded career, which would likely still be in progress were it not for a nagging injury.
20. George Sherrill
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Relief pitcher Sherrill (a.k.a. Duckbill for the way he wears his cap) went undrafted after graduating college in the late 1990s. He pitched for independent minor leagues for a while.
His play improved and suddenly he became a blip on scout radars.
In 2004 while he was munching down a tasty meal at the Pacific Coast League All-Star banquet, the call came. He was moving on up.
He's now pitched for 5 different major league teams. He has a career average ERA of 3.77.
19. Mark Herzlich
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But his climb to the NFL didn't turn out to be so direct. First, he opted to play college ball for the 2009 season. But a rare form of bone cancer took him out of the sport altogether for that year.
Then recovery. More college ball. Finally in 2011 he was invited to the draft...but wasn't picked up.
The UFL wanted him, but Herzlich declined.
18. Larry Parrish
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17. Chris Andersen
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16. J.J. Barea
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"J.J. Barea has kicked our ass."
- Kobe Bryant after a loss to the Mavericks in the 2011 Conference Semifinals
Barea went unpicked in the 2006 NBA draft. That fall he signed a one-year contract with the Mavericks. After excelling in the D-League, he was recalled by Dallas. He played with the Mavs through the 2010-2011 championship season, becoming only the second Puerto Rican NBA champ in history after Alfred "Butch" Lee.
Barea currently plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
15. Dan Girardi
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- Mark Forster, Girardi’s coach with the junior-level Welland Cougars
In 2002, Girardi was passed over in the NHL draft. It was a tough blow, but instead of despairing, he gave his all to his junior career.
It worked. The big boys took notice.
Now he is an integral part of the New York Rangers squad.
Many resident from his hometown, which is fairly close to both Buffalo and Toronto, root for the Rangers over the Sabres and Maple Leafs just because of Girardi.
In the 2011-2012 season, Girardi led the NHL in ice time, averaging more than 27 minutes per game.
Of the 130 undrafted players in the league last season, Girardi was the only one to be selected for the All-Star Game.
14. Matt Stairs
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13. John Starks
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Starks wasn't picked in the 1988 NBA draft, but managed to quickly sign with the Golden State Warriors. The gig didn't last.
After playing for other leagues and scrounging around for a new NBA in, the Knicks put him on their roster to see what he could do.
Then came a fateful dunk attempt in practice. Patrick Ewing shut that dunk down and Starks came away with a strained knee.
The injury meant the Knicks couldn't release him, which they probably would have done.
By the time the injury had healed, fate had come a knockin'.
12. Bobby Boswell
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"It would surprise many to look over the resume that includes an MLS Defender of the Year award, multiple visits to training camps with the U.S. men's national team, 210 regular season appearances and seven trips to the playoffs in eights MLS seasons, and realize that the player was undrafted out of college."
- Matt Pedersen, July 15, 2012 issue of Gameday Magazine
Perhaps it is because he was undrafted that Boswell has truly embraced the life of a professional athlete. He blogs. He tweets. He does extensive charity work. According to Brian Straus of AOL Sporting News, "He continues to throw himself into his charity work, often heading to a hospital on the same day the Dynamo returns from a road trip."
11. Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace who would become one of the greatest defensive centers in NBA history was overlooked in the 1996 draft.
He wasn't well known among scouts and was generally considered too small (at 6'9" and 250 lbs.) for the NBA. According to Wallace's bio on Answers.com:
"What the scouts had yet to realize, though, was that on Wallace's six-foot-nine-inch frame hung 250 pounds of rocklike muscle. The Detroit Free Press reported in 2003 that body fat accounted for just 3 percent of his weight, an astonishing statistic."
A few years and a couple of trades later, Ben was a titan of the NBA and had the ring to prove it.
10. Becky Hammon
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Despite a tremendous college career, at 5'6" Hammon was an easy target for a draft diss.
However in May 1999, New York Liberty decided to take a chance on her. It was a decision they wouldn't regret. Hammon not only performed, but quickly became a fan favorite for her "Little Engine That Could" story and aggressive game play.
In July of 2011, Hammon was named one of the WNBA's top 15 players in the league's 15-year history.
She currently plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars.
9. John Randle
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Randle is almost as decorated in sports as GA Douglas MacArthur was in war. Way too many achievements and accolades to cram into this slide, but the following is a little taste. This is taken from his page of the Hall of Fame website:
Randle amassed 137.5 sacks during his 14-season career. He led the Vikings in sacks nine times and the Seahawks twice. Thirty-five times he recorded multi-sack games including eight games with three or more sacks. Randle was elected to seven Pro Bowls (1994-99, 2002) and named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
After being overlooked in the 1990 draft, he flubbed a tryout with the Falcons before finally signing with the Vikings for a not-so-whopping $55,000.
Don't worry now. His salary went up. And fast.
8. Tony Romo
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After an amazing college career playing for Eastern Illinois University, Romo went undrafted in 2003. However, he was still seen as a commodity and shortly after the draft, signed with the Cowboys.
He did a three-year stint as a backup QB before becoming a record-setting starter. He has made three Pro Bowl appearances and holds a team record for the most touchdown passes.
7. Peter Šťastný
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During the Cold War, Slovak hockey star Šťastný (a.k.a. Peter the Great) and one brother (later a second brother) defected to Canada to play for the Quebec Nordiques.
Šťastný stayed with the NHL from 1980 through 1995. He was a scoring machine, becoming one of fastest ever to hit the 1,000-point milestone.
He played in six All-Star Games and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1998.
The Hockey News ranks him as the 56th greatest player ever.
6. Warren Moon
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Moon dazzled as a QB for the University of Washington, leading the Huskies to an upset win over the Michigan Wolverines in the 1978 Rose Bowl.
Yet he went undrafted upon graduation.
He found a home in the CFL and his play was so impressive that when he decided to make a go of it in the NFL, it was on his terms. A bidding war ensued.
Moon wound up playing for four different NFL franchises. He was selected for the Pro Bowl 9 times (and was once the MVP). He was a three-time All-Pro selection. He is a member of both the CFL and NFL Hall of Fame.
5. Arian Foster
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Foster was predicted to get picked up in the fifth or sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. But perhaps after a superstar start to his college career waned slightly in the 2008 season, he went undrafted.
He signed as a free agent with the Texans and quickly became a top player. He's a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and led the league in rushing yards in 2010 with 1,616 yards.
And still a lot of playing years ahead of him.
4. Wes Welker
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"Of all the players I’ve been involved in releasing, the decision to release you was the biggest mistake ever made that at least involved myself."
Yep, Marty, letting the double double-u go...well, that will haunt you for a good long while.
Welker was picked up then let go by the Chargers after going undrafted in 2004.
After a stint with the Dolphins, Welker was snatched up by the Patriots where he has shined like a supernova.
Pro-Bowls, All-Pros, reception records up the wazoo. He has racked up 8,580 receiving yards and averages 11.2 yards per reception.
3. Kurt Warner
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Warner tops some lists as the best undrafted NFL player of all time.
And what a weird, wild Cinderella story comes with his rise to fame.
When football didn't seem to be working out for him, he took a job stocking shelves in a grocery store for $5.50 an hour.
Then Arena Football, which he rocked.
Then a missed tryout with the Bears because of a spider bite.
When he finally made it into the NFL, it wasn't quite on the continent he had hoped for; he played for the Amsterdam Admirals.
Then back to the US as a third-string, then second-string, QB.
You probably know the rest of the story. It has a lot of acronyms and jargon in it: AP NFL MVP (twice), NEA NFL MVP (three times), Pro Bowl selection (four times), Super Bowl Champ, Super Bowl MVP...
2. James Harrison
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James Harrison has been such an intergral part of the Black and Gold squad that he has earned two fierce nicknames: Deebo (as in the tough brawler from the movie Friday) and Silverback as in a primate powerful enough to bend steel bars.
He went undrafted in 2002; teams felt that he was just too short to play linebacker and too light to play defensive end.
Harrison tried hard to prove himself at the NFL level, but after getting cut four times, he considered giving up.
He's made five Pro Bowl appearances, been All-Pro four times, has two Super Bowl rings and holds the record for the longest play in Super Bowl history—a 100-yard interception touchdown.
1. Wayne Gretzky
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What's this load of malarkey? Gretzky was a prodigy. Every team in the WHA and NHL salivated for his talent.
But technically, The Great One was not drafted. See, Gretzky's entry into the pros came about via a "personal services contract" with Nelson Skabania of WHA's Indiapolis Racers. For $1.75 million, Gretzky would provide services—namely, hockey awesomeness—to the Racers for seven years.