I was watching the Dolphins play the Patriots on Sunday and the final play of the game really caught my attention. Greg Camarillo, a former undrafted practice-squad player with the Chargers who is now a starter in Miami, made an amazing one-handed catch as time ran out on a 27-17 New England victory.
That play got me thinking about how many undrafted NFL standouts have gotten their first opportunity at glory with the Chargers. The results are quite amazing.
Along with Camarillo, who caught everything in sight during a dominant performance in the Chargers' 2007 training camp but fell victim to the Chargers' depth at wide receiver, New England's slot-receiver extraordinaire Wes Welker also got his first opportunity out of college in San Diego.
Most people know the story at this point of Steelers linebacker James Harrison, an undrafted player who became the Defensive Player of the Year last season and registered the longest play in Super Bowl history in the Steelers' victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
But right now, the Chargers are setting the bar quite high in getting contributions from undrafted talent.
This season, the Chargers feature five regular starters - TE Antonio Gates, G Kris Dielman, LB Stephen Cooper, DE Jacques Cesaire, and DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo - who entered the NFL as undrafted free agents.
Additionally, the Chargers found undrafted gems in key role players FB Mike Tolbert (who was a starter as a rookie), WR Malcolm Floyd (who just ascended to a starting role last week), OLB Jyles Tucker, OLB Antwan Applewhite and CB/S Steve Gregory along with special teams ace and team captain Kassim Osgood.
These 11 players have combined to represent the Chargers in nine Pro Bowls, which is astounding considering every single one was bypassed multiple times by every single team in the NFL.
While many people (myself definitely included ) have begun to question A.J. Smith's talent evaluation ability when it comes to the NFL Draft, this could be his ace in the hole when answering his detractors. He has found studs in the refuse of the NFL's undrafted free agent pool and has turned afterthoughts into starters, Pro Bowlers, and even a possible Hall of Famer.
Every football player wants to get his shot to play professional football; when it comes to the NFL, it seems to me that San Diego is the true land of opportunity.