For hundreds, even thousands, of NFL hopefuls, today begins training camp for the rookies. We previously covered the former Scarlet Knights who participated in NFL rookie camps. Carlton Agudosi, Andre Patton, Chris Muller, Anthony Cioffi, and Paul James should be reporting to their teams in the coming days. Guys like J.J. Denman, Darius Hamilton, and Derrick Nelson could also get a phone call during camp or even the preseason. Especially in recent years, Rutgers has had its fair share of high draft picks that found success at the next level. Plenty of other players had to grind from the ground up. Below are some of the guys’ success this group will try to replicate.
In the spirit of getting a boost of hope that you can improve post college or simply prove the scouts wrong, here is the list of the players in Rutgers football history who did just that.
TE: James Jenkins was more known as a defensive lineman at RU. Jenkins had a 10 year NFL career that began with a Super Bowl ring after not being drafted.
WR: Tim Wright was undrafted never having been a starter for the Knights. Wright finally shook off injuries to become an NFL starter with 13 career TD thus far.
WR: Tiquan Underwood was drafted in the 7th round despite his prolific stats and played 5 years in the NFL. His absence was felt in the Super Bowl as NE cut him after media day and then was short on wideouts in the big game, OOOPS!
HB: Jack Grossman graduated before there was an NFL draft, no one knows if he would have been. He did start 9 games for the Brooklyn (football) Dodgers as a rookie.
FB: Darian Barnes. Rutgers coaches didn’t give him much run so he transferred to Hampton, then had a nice 7 year NFL career. – Honorable Mention Ryan D’Imperio who played FB for the Vikings after exclusively being a LB at RU.
QB: Ray Lucas was undrafted as a quarterback. Lucas initially played special teams and wide receiver for the Patriots before reuniting with Bill Parcells and rallying the Jets to an 8-8 record in 1999. That may not sound great, but it was a former #2 overall pick Rick Mirer that he needed to replace and lead them to a 6-2 record in their last 8 to reach .500.
OL: Harry Swayne is another guy known as a defensive lineman at RU, he was drafted in the 7th round and had the longest career (15 seasons) of any Scarlet Knight punctuated by a Super Bowl ring as Denver’s starting right tackle in Super Bowl 33.
OL: Bob “Nasty” Nash was a 3 year NFL starter in the 1920s. A player had to be real tough in the trenches with so many former soldiers in the league having returned from the Great War.
OL: Gene Renna – His toughness was utilized as the President and COO of Mobil which tested his mettle as much as the gridiron. So if you studied hard, and don’t make it to the NFL, there is hope!
OL: John Alexander, not to be confused with the defensive lineman of the 70s with the same name, he was an NFL starter, 2nd team All-NFL in 1926 for the New York football Giants.
OL: Shaun O’Hara. The undrafted pro bowler won 2 super bowls as starting center for the New York Giants. Enough said.
LB: Jon Freeny is still in the league as an outside linebacker after going undrafted as a defensive end. Started for the Super Bowl champs in 2016 before being injured.
LB: Bill Pellington spent the most years as a primary starter of any Rutgers alum (11). Started and captained the Colts in the greatest game ever played, the 1958 NFL title game. Was an offensive guard at RU primarily.
LB: Gary Brackett. Captained Super bowl champion Colts defense (sense a theme?) after walking on at RU and going undrafted.
DL: Gary Gibson was undrafted after he was part of possibly the worst stretch of football in Rutgers history. He played in the NFL for 7 seasons, including one as a starter.
DL: Dino Mangiero. Those who watched him knew he was pretty good, but NFL scouts didn’t (undrafted) until he played 6 seasons in the NFL including one as a primary starter.
DL: George Johnson is still in the league and looking to reclaim a starting job. Recorded 6 sacks in 2014.
DL: Rashod Swinger was understandably undrafted from a defense that really was a sieve, but he became an NFL starter.
DB: Jay Bellamy was not drafted. Then he played 14 years in the league which is even more impressive considering he played defensive back.
DB: Deron Cherry somehow went undrafted and signed with the Chiefs as a punter. He convinced them to try him at safety even though they had drafted two other safeties that year. Then he became the most accomplished alum in RU football history, earning his spot on the NFL’s 1980s all decade team.
DB: Carl Howard was undrafted, played 7 seasons in NFL including several playoff games with the New York Jets who could never quite make it to the Super Bowl.
DB: Jason McCourty, a sixth round pick, no one expected him to become a full-time starter in his first year and have a solid career.
ST: Heinie Benkert started games as a halfback, kicker, punter, and return man. This was before the NFL draft even existed.
Good luck to all!