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The Three Greatest Undrafted Free Agents in NFL History

Undrafted Free Agents

(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Undrafted Free Agents
(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

The Three Greatest Undrafted Free Agents in NFL History

The road to fame in the glitzy National Football League is frequently strewn with obstacles. While the draft night is a fantasy come true for the majority of athletes, for some, the path to greatness begins as an undrafted free agent.

These unsung heroes, who were passed over by scouts and missed by all 32 teams on draft night, have overcome the odds and irrevocably changed the league. In this article, we examine NFL history to identify the top three undrafted free agents who not only established their worth in the game but also rose to legendary status inside it.

#1. Kurt Warner – QB – Northern Iowa

Kurt Warner has the greatest rags-to-riches tale of all time, bar none. Warner’s dreams of playing in the NFL seemed to be over after being overlooked in the 1994 draft. While participating in the Arena Football League (AFL) and later the NFL Europe League, he obtained employment as a cashier at a grocery shop, stocking shelves.

Warner was, however, signed by the St. Louis Rams in 1998, and played the entire season as their backup quarterback. In 1999, fate stepped in when Trent Green, the starting quarterback for the Rams, suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason. As the Rams’ unlikely Super Bowl champion, Warner stepped up to the plate and took advantage of the situation, winning MVP accolades in the process.

As a UDFA, he would continue to have unmatched success, winning two more MVP awards and making another Super Bowl participation. The St. Louis Rams’ explosive attack at the time earned the moniker “The Greatest Show on Turf.” In just 11 seasons, Warner had amassed 32,344 throwing yards and 208 passing touchdowns by the time he retired.

One of the best periods in NFL history is Kurt’s three-year span from 1999 to 2001. He accumulated an astounding 12,612 throwing yards, a 67.2 completion percentage, and 98 touchdowns over the course of those three years in 43 games. He also won two MVP awards, made it to one Super Bowl, and qualified for another. His influence goes far beyond the football field, motivating other young athletes to go after their goals despite all difficulties.

#2. Warren Moon – QB – Washington

Warren Moon had to overcome another challenge before breaking through as an African-American starting quarterback in the NFL. despite having a fantastic career at the University of Washington, going undrafted in the 1978 NFL Draft. Unfazed, Moon decided to join the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Edmonton Eskimos.

From 1978 to 1982, Moon hit his stride in the CFL, winning a CFL-record five straight Grey Cups. Moon won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award in 1983 after throwing for a league-high 5,648 yards and 31 touchdowns in his last CFL season.

After that 1983 campaign, Moon made the decision to join the NFL, setting off a competition for his services that the Houston Oilers ultimately prevailed in. Although Moons’ NFL career got out to a poor start, by year five of 1988, when he was 32 years old, he made his first Pro Bowl. The next year, he would go on to play in nine Pro Bowls overall over the course of his career. Additionally, in 1990 and 1991, when he threw for 4689 and 4690 yards, respectively, he twice topped the league in passing yards.

By the time he retired in 2000, Moon had passed for more than 49,000 yards and 291 touchdowns, making him a lock for the Hall of Fame. Warren Moon’s journey from undrafted rookie to NFL star stands for resiliency and the strength of tenacity in the face of hardship.

#3. John Randle – DT – Texas A&M-Kingsville

As an undrafted free agent coming out of Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M-Kingsville), John Randle began his ascent to greatness. Scouts questioned his size (6,1′′ 244) and questioned his ability to play at the highest level despite a successful college record. This rejection just strengthened Randle’s resolve and enabled him to establish himself as one of the league’s most powerful players.

For 14 seasons in the NFL, Randle terrified opposing offensive lines. He was renowned for his ferocity, agility, and unrelenting drive. The Texas native recorded the most career sacks of any interior lineman in NFL history with 137.5, which is astounding.

Seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro, and 1990s All-Decade squad member Randle would cap up his illustrious career. Randle’s tale is not just about his brilliance on the court; it is also about his unwavering work ethic and unyielding spirit, which transformed him from an underappreciated collegiate athlete into a Hall of Fame inductee.

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