Every year, the NFL Draft builds a story line from the end of the college season until that fateful day in April which shapes franchises for at times the next ten years.
Also every year, the NFL's teams and GMs pass on players, who go on to prove themselves in the league as worthy of a higher selection.
For most players, the motivation of catching on and sticking with an NFL team is incentive enough to push themselves as far as their potential can take them, but for some, being passed up by teams is more than enough to keep them working hard.
The NFL sees players come and go each season, so who were the passed up few who beat the odds?
**Fun Fact: about half of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks were drafted outside the first round.**
Here are the 10 quarterbacks (and their "could've been" teams) that the NFL dropped the ball in not drafting them, or not drafting them earlier.
Say what you will about Jeff Garcia, but don't question his leadership or on-field talents.
For his 12 year NFL career he totaled 25,537 yards, 161 touchdowns, and 2,140 yards rushing to go with 26 more touchdowns.
Garcia sports a not-so-undrafted-worthy 87.6 career passer rating, was passed on by the entire NFL upon his exit from his collegiate days at San Jose State University.
Playing in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, Garcia was a 4-time CFL All Star, and during his final season, he was named the Grey Cup MVP, mainly for the game-winning 80-yard drive he orchestrated for the Stampeders.
After his final CFL season, the NFL came calling, namely the 49ers who lost Steve Young after a final concussion to end his career early.
Garcia was a great replacement his first few seasons, being one of only 12 players in NFL history to post back to back 30 TD seasons.
He'd later shuffle around the league, his most memorable teams being his years with the 49ers and Buccaneers, but Garcia certainly left a mark on the NFL for a guy who wasn't even drafted or given a look by NFL teams. Oh, and he snagged hottie Carmela Decesare. Well played, Jeff. Well played indeed.
Coming out of high school in Burlington, Wisconsin, Romo only landed a college gig at D-2 Eastern Illinois University. Romo, who did great at his school, passed for 8,200+ yards, 85 Touchdowns and was a 3-time All-American.
Despite interest from the Cowboys' then coordinator Sean Payton, and Mike Shannahan of the Denver Broncos, Romo went undrafted in 2003's NFL Draft.
Shortly after the Draft, Romo received a call from Payton, and soon signed a deal with the Cowboys to backup then starter Chad Hutchinson. He was third on the depth chart to start his career, behind Quincy Carter as well, but Romo did not let up.
Showing strong ability and pocket presence in the preseason, Romo survived the player cuts, as Carter was released due to substance abuse allegations.
Then, as if another road block was to happen like unfortunate karma, the Cowboys signed Drew Bledsoe after Chad Hutchinson was eventually released. Also, Vinny Testaverde was brought in to be Bledsoe's backup.
Now third again in the depth chart, Romo faced adversity well. Showing strong in the 2005 and 2006 preseasons again, Romo rose to no. 2 in the depth chart, and made his first start for the Dallas Cowboys on October 29, 2006.
He's been the Cowboy's starter since that very day, and hasn't looked back. Arguably an elite quarterback now, Romo has shown the NFL's "experts" and GMs don't always make the right call passing up on a player with little tape on him or press about him.
His Career statistics:
107 TDs, 55 INTs, 15,045 Yards Passing.
Again, these numbers don't scream "undrafted quarterback from D-2 school who was behind Chad Hutchinson and Quincy Carter" to me. Just shows what a little hard work and a lot of determination can do for an athlete in a tough situation. Oh, and he has had Terrell Owens and Jason Witten and Miles Austin. That doesn't hurt either.
After a serious car wreck, it was uncertain whether Brett Lorenzo Favre would ever play another down on a football field.
He was in his senior year at Southern Miss, and shortly after leading a comeback victory in usual Favre fashion—having been hungover and vomiting the practice before the game—Favre was in a near fatal car wreck.
For his troubles, 30 inches of Favre's intestine was removed, and he lost large amounts of weight. All Favre recalls, is asking "will I play football again?" repeatedly.
Well, he did. And the NFL is better for it.
After he finished his collegiate career at Southern Miss, Favre slipped (mostly to injury concerns) down to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2nd round.
Then Atlanta coach, Jerry Glanville, did not like the draft pick Favre, stating "it would take a plane crash for Favre to get in the game". Well, He only threw five passes as a Falcon, and none were completions. His stat sheet? 0-5, 2 INTs, one of them returned for a touchdown. It also happened to be his first NFL pass.
However, New York Jets assistant GM Ron Wolf was not disuaded in his interest of Favre. Wolf was on record as saying he would have drafted Favre, had he lasted one pick longer. The Jets missed Favre by one slot in the draft.
In 1992, now GM of the Green Bay Packers, Wolf made his move, trading for Favre. The move cost the Packers their 1st round pick (19th overall) for Favre, a relatively high price.
Gotta pay to get the goods, right?
Favre would later make Wolf look genius for his bold maneuver, as he went on to be the only player in NFL history to win 3 consecutive MVP awards. Not to mention he brought the Lombardi trophy home in just his fourth season, 1996.
But this isn't meant to be a history lesson article.
Point being, from car crash, to comeback king, Favre was overlooked by but one man, and that's all it takes for a guy to catch a break and make a name for himself. It's safe to say Favre has done at least that much.
The surefire Hall of Famer stands at 497 touchdowns, 317 interceptions and 69,329 yards passing.
You've just won the Super Bowl, Drew... What are you gonna do next?!
"I'm going to Disney Land!"
I'm sure after his potentially career-ending shoulder injury at the end of the 2005 season, Brees never thought he'd get to say those words.
He tore his labrum in his throwing shoulder, picking up his own fumble in the last game of the 2005 season, also damaging his rotator cuff.
What a tough break for Drew Brees, who just posted a career best 3,576 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl.
He later refused a "insulting" contract of $50 million/5 years which only payed a base salary of $2 million the first year, and was heavily incentive based.
Brees went on to meet with the Miami Dolphins (who later traded for Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper) and the struggling New Orleans Saints, who, after being hit by Hurricane Katriana, limped to a 3-13 record.
In 2006, new coach Sean Payton lobbied Brees to come to New Orleans, and he later signed a 6 year-$60 million offer, $10 million guaranteed. Brees took the Saints up on their offer, and led the team to a 10-6 record, winning the NFC South division.
It's been all history and record books for Brees and the Saints since he signed with them, and Brees' stats are inspiring, no matter how much of a critic you may be of him or the Saints.
The former Purdue Heisman award finalist has posted a 38-25 record, including his first Super Bowl title, along with 202 touchdowns, just 110 interceptions, and 30,646 yards passing.
Given up on by the Chargers, passed on by the Miami Dolphins in free agency, Brees persevered back from injury to become one of the greatest feel good stories (along with the Saints) in a long time.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, how did Joe Montana fall to the 82nd pick of the 1979 NFL Draft??
The Notre Dame quarterback entered the NFL in 1979, but the league took notice of "Joe Cool" during the NFC Championship game in 1981, voted as one of his most career defining moments.
In 1981, the San Francisco 49ers were 13-3, and on January 10th, 1982, Montana led one of the greatest drives and comebacks in NFL history.
Down 21-27 to Dallas, Montana and the 49ers took the ball with just 4:51 left in the game. Through six Montana pass completions, and four runs, the 49ers matriculated the ball down to the 13 yard line of the Cowboys.
Continuing the drive, the 49ers had an incompletion and then a seven yard gain, leaving Montana 3rd down from the six yard line.
The very next play, with :51 seconds left, has been seen probably 10 million times. Montana would take the snap, and find a leaping Dwight Clark, for a game-winning touchdown.
"Montana...looking, looking, throwing in the endzone...Clark caught it!!!"
I still get chills listening to Vin Scully's legendary call of "The Catch".
Without a doubt, at 4-0 in Super Bowls and an "ice water in his veins" type of mentality, Joe Montana has cemented himself as one of the worst missed picks in NFL history. Each team in the NFL had about three chances to take Montana, but only the 49ers would spend a draft pick on him. And as they say, "the rest was history".
It will forever puzzle me how Roger Staubach fell to the 10th round, 129th pick in the 1964 NFL Draft.
"The greatest quarterback to ever play for Navy". A Vietnam veteran. A Heisman winner. The No. 9 ranked player in college football history in a poll from 2007, Staubach lit up the scoreboards and led the Midshipmen. He quarterbacked his team to a 9-1 record the year the Naval Academy would make it to the National Championship game against No. 1 ranked Texas. He was beaten 35-7, but the season was also the last time the Navy had beaten Army until 2007.
Staubach would eventually go on to become the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, leading "America's Team" to five Super Bowls in the 70's, winning two of them.
For a man who put his country first—he volunteered his commitment in a tour of duty in Vietnam with the Navy, rather than requesting domestic service where he would be able to play football earlier—and entered the league as a 27 year old rookie in 1969, his career may have been short but it was not without its long list of success.
His accomplishments and career statistics:
1963 Heisman winner
6x Pro Bowler (1971, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979)
2 Super Bowl victories
153 touchdowns, 109 interceptions, 22,700 yards passing.
And to think, it only took ten rounds before someone thought he'd be worth putting in a uniform.
I'd like to find a superlative that hasn't been used to describe Johnny Unitas, but I'd find more comfort in watching the series "Twilight" than cozying up to the latest edition of the Meriam-Webster dictionary, or god forbid a thesaurus.
Instead, I'll preface the great Johnny "U" this way.
Who's ready for a game of Family Feud?!
Alright. For the points on the board, name 101 players from the 1955 NFL Draft who had better careers than Johnny Unitas...
Lets take a look at the board.
And the survey says?
Well, the survey is blank...that's odd. Oh, now I understand. My producers are telling me that of the 101 players drafted in the more than nine rounds Johnny Unitas was on the board, no player had a better career. I see.
Unitas, a 4-time NFL MVP, would lead his Baltimore Colts into the 1958 NFL title game, against the New York Football Giants. What made this game significant, was not just the NFL title on the line. This was the first game to be nationally-televised by NBC, and also it would be the first game decided in sudden death overtime.
Winning 23-17 on an Alan Ameche 1 yard touchdown run, Unitas and the Colts were credited for having played in the "Greatest Game of All Time" and the game is widely credited with the later burst in the NFL's popularity.
His career noteworthy notes?
A 10x Pro Bowler.
2x NFL World Champion along with 1 Super Bowl Championship.
290 touchdowns, 253 interceptions, 40,239 yards passing.
A remarkable 47 game streak with at least one passing touchdown.
Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers were one of the greatest teams of all time, through the 1960's.
Among the many reasons for their tremendous success (3 NFL Titles, 2 Super Bowls) was who the starting quarterback was.
Bart Starr, who has one of the best playoff records in NFL history at 9-1, was a phenomenal field general, calling many of the Packers' offensive plays while at the helm.
Starr, who by all definitions of his name "star" lived up to that. He was everything and more an NFL QB should be.
The last, may be more important than any of the other intangibles Starr had. he won 7 total championships, 5 NFL titles before the merger, and he won consecutive Super Bowls after the merger, beating the Chiefs of the AFC and the Oakland Raiders in a 33-14 beatdown, a fitting sendoff for longtime coach Vince Lombardi.
Starr's stats may not stack up with Unitas' 40,000+ passing yards, or Brett Favre's 497 touchdowns, but for the era he played in, his efforts were still commendable.
152 Touchdowns, 138 Interceptions, and 24,718 yards passing. He later went on to coach the Packers after his playing career.
Someone tell Tom Brady he's not No. 1, at least on this list. More like, No. 199.
The former Michigan Wolverine, Brady was not drafted until the 6th round, at pick 199 by the New England Patriots.
Brady made some ripples for his telling Robert Kraft, the team’s owner, “Mr. Kraft, I’m the best decision your organization has ever made.”
Hey, Tom...? Do you still have your crystal ball? I'd like tonight's lottery numbers.
Good call, as he's been the most clutch quarterback this side of Joe Montana with the 'niners.
A 3-time Super Bowl winner, Brady's skills are both mental and physical. He doesn't have speed to run around the pocket like a younger Favre or a Tony Romo or Steve Young, but he's blessed with a very accurate arm, and a mentality perfect for the game of football.
He's always been a hard worker, a student of the game, and his record and statistics show it.
Brady was the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 200 or more touchdowns before his 100th interception (88 was his total at the time of passing TD No. 200) and he's also the winningest quarterback among QB's to have made a minimum of 100 starts, posting a 76-24 record.
Brady was offered a scholarship at Michigan, but after the firing of the coach who recruited him, it was clear he had his work cut out for him to prove himself. He led the Wolverines to the Orange Bowl, beating Alabama in 1999.
Had he not fought tooth and nail to keep his starting job from hot prospect Drew Henson, Brady may have never made it to the NFL.
Head coach Bill Belichick and Brady proved to be a deadly combination, and are still a great combination of a methodical quarterback and a evil genius head coach.
His career numbers and accomplishments?
3 Time Super Bowl Champion
5x Pro Bowler
Drafted in the 18th round of the MLB Draft by the then Montreal Expos as a catcher.
225 touchdowns, 99 inteceptions, 30,844 yards pasing, 90-37 record as a starter.
Kurt Warner is the guy who personifies the voice in your head that says "Don't listen to them. They're wrong. You're better than they give you credit for, and when you get your opportunity, you'll succeed".
We all have that voice that keeps us confident or motivated to continue doing what we're doing to be the best we can be and let that be enough for ourselves.
Kurt Warner, however, lives by that.
Whether it's his faith in God, or his insane streak of good fortune and dominoes falling in place for him, Warner has had some great opportunities to be successful, and you can bet, all along the way that the voice in his head was telling him he could pull off anything.
He was a grocery store employee part time while playing Arena Football in the Arena Football League.
Only after being one of the best players to ever grace an AFL field, he made his way to the NFL after being previously undrafted in 1994 coming out of Northern Iowa.
His first taste of NFL action came after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers. He didn't make it out of camp with the 'Pack, as they had Brett Favre, Ty Detmer, and Mark Brunell.
This would turn out to be a blessing for Warner, as he caught on with the St. Louis Rams, and eventually took over the starting job after Trent Green tore his ACL in 1999.
Warner took over the starting quarterback job, and under Mike Martz, he and the St. Louis Rams lit the scoreboards on fire and made Hall of Famers out of the skill players. Warner, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk, and Isaac Bruce should all hear Canton calling.
Warner's career falls in thirds. Very effective with the Rams. Not effective with the Rams and NY Giants, and very effective with the Arizona Cardinals.
It's rare for a quarterback to have such timeline splits in their production, but Warner has a few legitimate defenses. Firstly, the drafting of Marc Bulger all but signified the end of the Warner era in STL, for good or bad.
In New York, Warner battled injury and fumbling problems, eventually solved by turning to quarterback gloves.
Then, Eli Manning came around in New York, again, signifying the end of a Warner era.
He then signed with the Arizona Cardinals, and made an instant connection with both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, finding a connection similar to what he had with Holt and Bruce.
His career numbers when it's all said and done?
204 touchdowns, 128 interceptions, 32,344 yards passing and the 2nd-highest passer rating in NFL history (among non-active players), behind only Steve Young who's career mark is 96.8.
Is he Hall of Fame worthy? That's for Canton's voters to decide, but I think so. He dominated with two different teams, winning a Super Bowl with the Rams, and leading the Arizona Cardinals to the first appearance in the big game of their franchise. Also, his story is such a longshot, that it has to factor in to a degree.
The odds were completely stacked against the man, but through faith and determination, Kurt Warner persevered and became one of the greatest Cinderella stories in sports history.
As always, thanks for reading today, and if you'd like to add your own players to this list, or argue with their rankings, by all means, shoot me a comment in the comment section. I'd really enjoy hearing your opinions. Who is your NFL great who was overlooked early in their career and beat the odds?