Going undrafted doesn’t have to mean the end of NFL hopes. Several USC pros forged successful careers despite never hearing their name at the NFL Draft.
Deontay Burnett’s decision to leave USC early for the NFL has drawn extra criticism after the wide receiver went undrafted.
No doubt disappointed by the turn of events, Burnett now needs to set out on a difficult path, but one which fellow Trojans have walked before him: succeeding as an undrafted free agent in the NFL.
And he won’t be alone, with the likes of Steven Mitchell, Nico Falah, Viane Talamaivao, Josh Fatu and Chris Hawkins also looking to prove NFL teams wrong for passing on them.
Here’s a look at five USC football players who went on to find a place in the NFL despite going undrafted:
Perhaps the best comparison to Burnett’s situation comes from former USC cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Before he added the Coleman to his surname, Robey starred at USC as a shutdown corner.
Starting wire-to-wire from Day 1 as a true freshman to his final outing in 2012, Robey-Coleman posted seven interceptions and 17 deflections in 37 games. He was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2010, a first teamer in 2011 and a second teamer in 2012.
However, Robey-Coleman’s NFL prospects were slim when he declared for the draft following his junior campaign. At 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, he was simply too small to get on NFL radars. Another year in school wouldn’t have changed that. So he took his chances.
As expected, no pro team picked him up in the draft but he did land with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. Robey-Coleman made the roster and went on to play in every game for Buffalo over the next four years, starting 15 times as a corner, nickelback and hybrid defender. In 2017 he made his way back to Los Angeles, joining the Rams on a one-year deal. After starting four times last year, he signed a three-year contract extension and figures to start at nickelback for the forseeable future.
That’s not too shabby for a player who has faced doubts throughout his career.