The research into the-then Dick Lane's NFL credentials consisted of leafing through a scrapbook of his exploits at junior college and in the Army. The Los Angeles Rams took a chance anyway, converted him to cornerback and found themselves with the new prototype for the position: fast, agile and a devastating tackler. Lane went onto play for the Chicago Cardinals and finally the Detroit Lions. -- John Juhasz
Larry Little played college ball at Bethune-Cookman College before catching on with the Chargers. He wasn't happy about being traded to the Dolphins in the late 60s, but he became an important staple in their running game at right guard, helping pave the way for Miami's hard-nosed rushing attack of the early-to-mid-70s. Little was a key contributor to the 1972 perfect season team and was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame.
Romo posted highly efficient career numbers at Eastern Illinois University, but scouts likely wrote them off as good production against inferior competition. Romo began his career buried at No. 3 on Dallas' depth chart in 2003 and ran with his chance when it was given to him. I sometimes shake my head in amazement as I watch him do his thing. He has an uncanny knack for waiting until the last possible second to make a play happen. It's a performance trait shared by only a select few NFL quarterbacks.
Randle was an outstanding talent at Texas A&I University–Kingsville and even more of a force at the pro level from his debut year in 1990. He probably fell through the draft cracks because information on players from smaller schools wasn't nearly as readily available to NFL teams and scouts back then as it is today. Seven Pro Bowls, six first-team All-Pro selections and one 1990s All-Decade team selection later, Randle staked his claim as one of the most dominant defensive tackles ever to play the game.
Welker's 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame was considered far too small to endure the rigors of the NFL game. He almost didn't play college football, only choosing to attend Texas Tech after another recruit the Red Raiders wanted backed out of his scholarship at the last second. Welker caught on with the Dolphins and performed mostly special teams duty early in his career. He moved on to the Patriots and has since played in two Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro team selection as the league's pre-eminent slot receiver.
Holmes played college football at Texas and signed with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 1997. He was barely noticed with the Ravens during their 2000 Super Bowl run, but ran wild on defenses when he moved to Kansas City the following season. Holmes led the NFL with 1,555 rushing yards in '01 and is one of only two running backs in NFL history to rush for 20 or more touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. Neck and back injuries prematurely ended what shaped to be a highly productive career.
It's hard to imagine longer odds for success than Warner's. He didn't get any playing time with a small-time college program (Northern Iowa) until he was a senior. He tried out for and was cut by the Packers, worked in a grocery store, played in the Arena League, then did another stint in NFL Europe for a year before having the pleasure of sitting on the bench to watch the Rams finish 4-12. When he finally got his opportunity to start - only because of a knee injury to starter Trent Green - all Warner did was compile one of best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history and lead the horrendous Rams to a Super Bowl victory. A decade later, he came within two minutes and 30 seconds of leading a second notoriously bad franchise, the Arizona Cardinals, to their own first Super Bowl title.
Gates had a pretty decent college basketball career at Kent State, but before debuting in the NFL, he hadn't played any kind of organized football since high school. He contacted several NFL teams about an open tryout and caught on with the Chargers. Gates and Tony Gonzalez can be credited with revolutionizing the way an offense utilizes the tight end in a passing attack. Gates is still going strong, too. He's caught eight or more touchdown passes in every year since his 2003 rookie season, and the 1,157 receiving yards he amassed in '09 are most in his career.
Marion Motley, Browns (No. 76)
Jim Brown's historical output may overshadow Motley's presence, but some pundits argue Motley was even better than Brown. Motley amassed 4,720 yards on 828 carries for an incredible 5.7-yard-per-carry average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Most casual fans aren't aware Moon spent six seasons in the Canadian Football League - and did a damn good job there - before unleashing his game on the NFL. It's almost inconceivable that someone who wasn't drafted accomplished everything he did at the NFL level - nine Pro Bowls, 49,325 passing yards, 291 touchdown passes while playing for four different teams. Moon also threw five touchdown passes against the Bengals on two different occasions. The only missing piece of his resume is a Super Bowl appearance.