Not much was expected from the New England Patriots' sixth-round pick in 2000. He's led the Pats to four Super Bowls (three wins) and an undefeated regular season in 2007 in which he threw for an NFL-record 50 touchdowns. He easily could go down as the best quarterback of his generation.
Where'd they come from?
Not all superstars were first-round draft picks — or even drafted. Not all champions were expected to win. Here are 10 of the best longshot players and teams to reach stardom.
QB Kurt Warner
From working as a grocery store shelf stocker to playing in three Super Bowls, Warner's journey is improbable. He became a starter with the St. Louis Rams in 1999 when starter Trent Green was injured for the season. Warner went on to be league and Super Bowl MVP that season. He made the Pro Bowl four times and won another regular-season MVP honor.
K Adam Vinatieri
Perhaps the most clutch kicker in NFL history, Vinatieri began his pro career in the World League signing with the New England Patriots. He's hit kicks in the final seconds to win two Super Bowls and made a 45-yard field goal in the snow to force overtime in the Patriots' divisional playoff win over the Oakland Raiders, aka the Tuck Rule Game, after the 2001 season. He made the winning field goal in that matchup, too.
DT John Randle
From undrafted free agent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame — who would have thought it? The defensive tackle from Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) had 137.5 career sacks, mainly with the first team that signed him — the Minnesota Vikings. He made seven Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
Jets win Super Bowl III
The AFL hadn't won a Super Bowl yet, and the Baltimore Colts were heavily favored to add to that losing streak considering they had lost only once all season. However, Joe Namath's guarantee came true as the New York Jets' timely defense produced one of the most shocking wins in Super Bowl history.
Patriots win Super Bowl XXXVI
The Patriots had an unheralded quarterback named Tom Brady leading them and were 14-point underdogs to the Rams and their “Greatest Show on Turf.” However, that’s why they play the game. An Adam Vinateri field goal as time expired gave the Patriots one of the most memorable wins in Super Bowl history.
QB Warren Moon
He went undrafted in 1978, then forged his own path by taking his talents to the Canadian Football League, where he won five Grey Cups. He joined the NFL in 1984, reaching stardom with the Houston Oilers. The Hall of Famer played in the NFL for 17 seasons and was third in career passing yardage with nearly 50,000 yards when he retired in 2000.
CB Dick 'Night Train' Lane
The cornerback joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1952 after finishing his stint in the Army. Lane reached elite status when he was traded to the Chicago Cardinals for the 1954 season. He earned first- or second-team All-NFL honors from 1954 to 1963. He finished his Hall of Fame career with an astounding 68 interceptions in an era where passing was not that prevalent.
TE Antonio Gates
When he was signed by the Chargers in 2003, Gates hadn't played football since high school. So what has the tight end done in the years since? He's made seven consecutive Pro Bowls and was named a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
RB Terrell Davis
The Denver Broncos' sixth-round pick from 1995 had a short, but great run of brilliance. If it wasn't for Davis, John Elway never would have won his two Super Bowls. Davis' 157-yard, three-touchdown performance earned him MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXII. From 1996-98, he ran for more than 5,200 yards, including a 2,000-yard season in 1998.