RaiderRamble.com takes a closer look at some of the undrafted players that have come thru the Silver and Black; some of them going on to becoming legends.
Every year NFL teams allow a select few, undrafted players to compete at their training camps. Upon completion of the draft, NFL teams are allowed to sign as many undrafted free agents (UDFA’s) as they want as long as they stay within the 90 man roster limit. It is an opportunity to fulfill a life long dream for these young men; to have a career in the National Football League.
Very few UDFA’s make the final team roster of 53 players so when one does; it is a big deal, to say the least. Americans love to root for the underdog; maybe because we have all felt like one at some point in our life. UDFA’s are so popular with fans that the NFL even created an Emmy Award winning television show, “Undrafted” which follows the ups and downs of several of these players trying to live the dream.
Currently, at the Oakland Raiders’ 2017 Training Camp, one player that has heads turning is defensive back Breon Borders.
Quarterback Derek Carr recently talked about the young player at a post practice press conference; “You know what, every time I turn the film on, it’s like he makes a play,” Carr said. “I think that that’s how those guys catch your eye. When you’re an undrafted guy, it’s hard because … you’re not going to have the first- or second-team reps all the time, obviously.”
Few Raiders’ fans will forget the 2016 season when UDFA Jalen Richard made a 70 yard plus run from scrimmage for a touchdown in last season’s opener. What made the score even more special is that he did it in his home town of New Orleans. Richard’s road to Raiders’ stardom was not easy.
In a recent interview, he talked about the hardships UDFA’s face: “It’s rough, to be honest with you. You’re not getting any money up front and you might have obligations back home. I didn’t have any money to buy extra food so I was eating it from here (Raider’s facility) and taking extra food back to the hotel room”.
The “Pocket Rocket” as Richard is now known, has endeared himself to Raider Nation and is set to have a big year in 2017, but what about other UDFA’s from the Raiders past? Here are a few UDFA’s that have had an impact on the Raider’s organization.
Matt McGloin, Quarterback
McGloin was a walk on at Penn State but eventually became the Nitney Lion’s starting quarterback from 2010 to 2012. Though not originally drafted, the Raiders signed him after a team visit on May 15th, 2013.
He became third on the depth chart behind Terrell Pryor and backup Matt Flynn. After Pryor was hurt and Flynn had not shown promise, McGloin started a game against the Houston Texans on November 13, 2013. He threw for three touchdowns and led the Raiders to a 28-23 victory. Pryor eventually won back the starting position, but McGloin had shown his mettle and remained on the Raider’s squad. He was released last year after a disappointing loss to the Denver Broncos in the last regular season game. McGloin was filling in for Raider’s starter Derek Carr who had suffered a season ending injury. McGloin was signed to a one year deal by the Philadelphia Eagles in April of this year.
Rory Graves, Offensive Tackle
Rory Graves was an anchor for the Raiders offensive line for four seasons when the team was playing in Los Angeles.
Coming out of Ohio State, the native Georgian started 45 out of his total 49 professional games played. Graves was signed as a UDFA by Al Davis and the team after the 1988 NFL draft passed him over.
At left tackle, Graves played alongside such Raider greats as guard Steve Wisniewski and center Don Mosebar where he became known for his strong work ethic and availability. He was also responsible for opening up holes for Raiders’ legendary running back, Bo Jackson. Rory played four seasons with the Silver and Black and ended his career in Minnesota after one season. He retired after the 1993 season.
Rufus Bess, Cornerback
The Raiders signed Rufus Bess as an undrafted free agent in 1979. Bess played college at South Carolina State University and was with the Raiders for the entire ’79 season. He went on to play in the NFL for eight seasons, playing for the Buffalo Bills in ’80 and ’81 and then with the Vikings from 1982 to 1987. He finished his career in 1988 playing arena football with the Chicago Bruisers.
Mike Reinfeldt, Safety
Reinfeldt played college ball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After being undrafted in 1976, Al Davis apparently saw something in the young man as he earned his way onto the team that year. Although Reinfeldt was only with the Raiders for part of that season, he went on to play eight seasons with the Houston Oilers. He was named All-Pro for seven years and was eventually named General Manager of the Tennessee Titans. Very impressive for a kid that went undrafted wouldn’t you say?
Willie Brown, Cornerback
By far the best known and most successful undrafted free agent to wear the Silver and Black is Hall of Fame Cornerback, Willie Brown. Brown played college ball for Grambling but went undrafted in the 1963 draft. He was signed by the then-Houston Oilers but cut during training camp. The Broncos then signed him, and he became a starter for Denver towards the end of his rookie season. He was traded to Oakland the next year and the rest, as they say, is history.
Brown went on to play for the Raiders for the next 12 years, 10 of which he was the Defensive Team Captain. Willie was named to five AFL All Star teams and went to four NFL Pro Bowls. His most memorable career moment came in Super Bowl XI when he intercepted Minnesota’s Fran Tarkington and returned the ball 75 yards for a touchdown helping the Raiders win the championship. Willie Brown went on to coach the defensive backs for the Raiders for several years culminating with an induction into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
It is obviously an incredibly difficult feat for an undrafted player to make the team’s 53 man roster. It is even more difficult for that player to start for the team and have an impact on the field. However, these athletes have shown us that although it is challenging; it is not impossible. Who knows? Maybe the Raiders have found their next Willie Brown in the young man from Duke University, Breon Borders. Let’s hope so. Everyone loves an underdog.