Every football player wants that moment of hearing their name called in the NFL Draft. However, not getting selected does not necessarily mean the end of a football career. Plenty of players have gone on to have good NFL careers after not going in the draft. These Tar Heels are just some of those players.
Three of the most prominent undrafted Carolina players were offensive linemen.
Looking back at his NFL career, it seems unthinkable that Jeff Saturday wasn’t actually drafted. However, after a four-year UNC career that included an All-ACC selection, Saturday was not selected in 1998. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Ravens but was released by June. After a recommendation from a college teammate, the Indianapolis Colts brought Saturday in for a workout. Thirteen years later, Saturday retired as a Super Bowl champion and a six-time Pro Bowler. Despite going undrafted, Saturday goes down as one of the best NFL Tar Heels ever.
The longest NFL career by a former Carolina player belongs to Ethan Albright. Albright made the All-ACC team in 1993 but was not selected in the 1995 draft. He went on to have a 16-year NFL career as a long snapper, making a Pro Bowl in 2007.
Yet another long snapper has gone on to a successful career after being undrafted from UNC. Greg Warren started his North Carolina career as a walk-on. He eventually won the long snapping job and was awarded a scholarship. Even after not getting drafted, Warren has carved out a 12-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s won two Super Bowls while missing just one game since 2010.
A pair of Carolina kickers both had long NFL tenures after going undrafted. Like Warren, Jeff Reed started off his Carolina career as a walk-on before eventually winning a scholarship. He would go to be an All-ACC player and a Lou Groza award semifinalist at UNC. Also like Warren, he won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Connor Barth is still playing in the NFL after re-signing with the Chicago Bears in March. Barth left UNC as the record holder for most field goals made in UNC history. He has since been passed by his brother Casey, but Barth has still carved out a successful NFL career. He will be playing his ninth NFL season if he takes the field with the Bears in 2017.
Willie Parker quite famously didn’t have the biggest role in his time at Carolina. That came into greater focus after he went on to make two Pro Bowls in his NFL career after going undrafted out off UNC.
Bernardo Harris won a Super Bowl with the Packers after going undrafted. He had a good eight-year career with Green Bay and the Baltimore Ravens. He will also go down in NFL lore for an uncalled fumble he forced on Jerry Rice in a playoff game in 1999. That play would be one of the catalysts for the NFL bringing in the replay system that is still used today.
It would be nice for the players and the program if all the notable Carolina alumni get taken in the upcoming NFL draft. However, if they don’t, they can still go on to find success in pro football.