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ESPN season awards 'All Pro Unwanted Team'


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On Tuesday night, the NFL will announce its Pro Bowl rosters, and many megabucks glory-boy types will hear their names called. But the players who catch TMQ's eye are the unwanted -- performers who were undrafted, or waived, or both. Thus my annual Tuesday Morning Quarterback All-Unwanted All-Pros.

My All-Unwanted roster celebrates those who got where they are based on hard work and determination. In most of life, hard work and determination are more important than social status or God-given talent. That's why Tuesday Morning Quarterback lauds hard work and determination on the part of football players who were not born into success but reached success through constant effort. They set a good example.

Consider: The New England Patriots, with the league's best record and highest-scoring offense, start seven undrafted players. When undrafted guard Stephen Neal went down injured, undrafted guard Ryan Wendell stepped in to replace him. Ten of the 22 Patriots' starters were undrafted or let go by other teams, or both.

Winners: Brent Grimes, cornerback, Atlanta, and Danny Woodhead, tailback, New England.

Grimes, undrafted out of Division II Shippensburg, quietly has become one of the NFL's best defensive players. In 2006, Grimes was signed and then waived by the Atlanta Falcons, then sent to the Amsterdam Admirals. He started his first game for the Falcons in 2008. This season, he leads Atlanta in interceptions and is the team's No. 2 tackler; it's rare for a cornerback to be a top tackler. Atlanta, at 12-3, holds the inside track for the top NFC seed in no small part because of the performance of an undrafted small-school cornerback whose name many football enthusiasts don't even know. Of course at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, he's "too small."

Woodhead, undrafted out of Division II Chadron State, was born in Nebraska but received no recruiting interest from the University of Nebraska despite a record-setting prep career -- because he is "too small" at 5-8. On the day he left college, Woodhead was the all-time, all-division NCAA rushing leader, but he was not drafted. He spent two seasons with the Jets, mostly on the practice squad, then was waived. This season, he has gained 907 yards rushing and receiving for the Patriots -- his rushing average is 5.6 yards per carry -- and, though "too small," has become one of the NFL's best blitz-blocking backs.

First-team offense

[+] EnlargeFoster

Ron Chenoy/US PresswireArian Foster of Houston -- undrafted, he leads the NFL in rushing. And in college, he went to class!

Offensive line: Tyson Clabo*, Atlanta (undrafted, waived by Broncos, Giants and Chargers); Kris Dielman, San Diego (undrafted, and had never played offensive line, in high school or college, before the NFL); Donald Penn*, Tampa (undrafted, waived by Minnesota); Ryan Lilja*, Kansas City (not recruited out of high school, undrafted, waived by Indianapolis after starting in the Super Bowl); Jeff Saturday*, Indianapolis (undrafted, cut by the Ravens, future Hall of Fame entrant and the 2007 Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back NFL MVP).

Tight end: Antonio Gates, San Diego (undrafted, did not play college football).

Wide receivers: Brandon Lloyd*, Denver (waived by Washington and Chicago, started only seven games from 2007 to 2009, leads NFL in receiving yards); Wes Welker*, (undrafted, waived by San Diego, not recruited out of high school despite scoring 83 prep touchdowns, not drafted despite an NCAA-record eight punt return touchdowns in college; 2008 Unwanted Player of the Year).

Fullback: BenJarvus Green-Ellis*, New England (undrafted, waived once by his own team).

Running backs: Arian Foster, Houston (undrafted, leading NFL in rushing; undrafted Priest Holmes led the NFL in rushing in 2001); Fred Jackson*, Buffalo (undrafted out of Division III Coe College, played for the Sioux City Bandits).

First-team defense

Defensive line: Cameron Wake, Miami (undrafted); Antonio Garay*, San Diego (waived by the Browns, Bears and Jets); Jacques Cesaire, San Diego (undrafted out of Division II Southern Connecticut State); Cullen Jenkins, Green Bay (undrafted).

Linebackers: James Harrison*, Pittsburgh (undrafted, played for the Rhein Fire, cut by Ravens and once cut by the Steelers -- 2009 Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back NFL MVP); Gary Guyton, New England (undrafted); Stephen Cooper, San Diego (undrafted out of Division I-AA Maine).

Defensive backs: Brent Grimes, Atlanta (undrafted); Jim Leonhard*, Jersey/B (undrafted after being a college walk-on, let go by Buffalo and Baltimore, 2009 TMQ Unwanted Player of the Year); Jacob Lacey, Indianapolis (undrafted because he is "too small," was an econ major in college); Jabari Greer, New Orleans (undrafted).

Matt Bryant was also named the 2nd team kicker. I think its great that Brent Grimes won the award that goes to basically the league's best 'blue collar' player. It embodies an Atlanta full of players like him (Dahl, Clabo, Turner, Weems, Bryant etc....)

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Yeah I knew it was Grimes.

That is incredible regarding the Pats.....a full 3rd of their starters being undrafted.

Ya, I definatly agree. It really says something not only about their coaching, but their scouting department as well. Good thing we've got former Pats draft guru Dimitroff on board.

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