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Chargers Have Strong History of Undrafted Free Agents

Posted May 22, 2014

The Chargers have had a knack for unearthing key contributors via undrafted rookie free agents.

Of every major professional sport, there is perhaps no tougher road than that of an NFL undrafted rookie free agent facing steep odds to make one of only 32 squads. Yet over the years the San Diego Chargers have unearthed players proven to be highly productive and deserving of a roster spot.  Last year the Chargers’ roster featured a number of undrafted free agents including future Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Mike Harris, Jahleel Addae and Kwame Geathers to name a few.

The Bolts hope to continue that trend in 2014 with a rookie free agent class that General Manager Tom Telesco says is very talented.  He has on numerous occasions lauded the skillful nature of this year’s crop, which should make training camp more competitive than ever.

Undrafted out of Central Michigan a season ago, Addae overcame the odds to become a key contributor during the Chargers playoff run.  Many of the current undrafted free agents look toward him as a success story, and the safety is eager to offer any advice that may benefit them as they attempt to make the roster.

“Stay in your playbook and be willing to learn,” Addae said. “Stay even keeled and don’t get too high or too low.  Treat every day like it’s game day because you are always being evaluated.  Whatever your faith is, keep your belief that things will work out.”

Meanwhile, Geathers says a key factor for those that go undrafted is to get over the sting of not being selected.

“The only advice I could give them is that the draft is over so come in and work hard,” he said.  “It’s disappointing not to be drafted but you have to move on.  The coaches say everyone has an equal opportunity and that is true.  So come in every day with one focus and be ready to go to work.”

As they begin their second NFL season, both men believe entering the league as an undrafted free agent builds character.

“No doubt that it does,” he said.  “For me, it represents what I had to go through my whole career.  I wasn’t highly recruited and I went to a small school.  But I’ve gone against the odds a lot and it is something that gives me a lot of drive and passion for the game.  It is part of what I do, and you can tell that by the way I play.”

It was exactly 10 years ago this summer that Floyd joined the Bolts after going undrafted.  He recalled what that process was like for him, his message sounding similar to that of Addae and Geathers.

“You have to give 110% and do every single thing the coaches ask of you,” he said.  “That really is pretty much it.  It is definitely a humbling experience, but going through something like that only makes you stronger.”

Marcus Cromartie’s journey is similar to that of Floyd as he too went from being an undrafted free agent to the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster later in the year.  While everyone’s goal is to be on the final 53-man squad directly out of training camp, the corner believes the practice squad is a valuable experience as well as a viable introduction into the NFL.

“It allows you to hone your craft,” he explained.  “A lot of guys can take it as a discouragement because you’re not playing.  They take it as not being a true part of the team in a sense but that isn’t true.  It gives you a chance to really humble yourself and your game knowing that you have a lot to get better at.  I competed against the ones (first team starters) every day at practice because I was on scout team, and that was very helpful.  So it gives you a chance to contribute in a way that the fans may not see, but your teammates and coaches appreciate it.”

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