San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead has opened up about his path to the NFL, and it's a doozy. In a letter published by The Players' Tribune, Woodhead reveals the inside story on one of the best stories in professional football.
For those who don't know Woodhead, the running back/receiving threat was so undersized in high school that Division I programs wouldn't offer him a scholarship. He recounted that experience, and other leading up to his current situation, about to begin his ninth year in the NFL, in a letter written to his younger self.
As he writes in The Players' Tribune:
"Nebraska looked at your five-foot-seven, 175-pound frame and -- like other D-I colleges -- thought you were too small to play running back or even wide receiver. Instead, they invited you to walk on … as a kick returner."
He wound up playing Division II football at Chadron State in Nebraska, where he became the NCAA's all-time rushing yards leader. Even so, he was rejected by the NFL: He remained so undersized for a skill position player that the NFL scouting combine didn't accept him, and no team asked him to hold a pro day to put his talents on display.
Eventually, he caught on as an undrafted rookie with the New York Jets. But he suffered an ACL tear two days into the season. Still, he made the 53-man roster the next season -- only to be waved in Week 2.
Then the Patriots signed him -- a move Woodhead thought was only done to gather some intel on the Jets. He didn't think his time in New England would last very long. Fast-forward to his second season with the Patriots, when he experienced the high of scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) September 6, 2016
"It will be the greatest moment of your football life," Woodhead writes. "But there won't be a fairy-tale ending to this one, Danny. Because despite your big moment, your team will lose the game, 21–17."
Now, Woodhead is an integral part of the Chargers' offense, and hoping he still has a few more years left in the tank. At 3, he's sufficiently proved he belonged in the NFL -- and that all of the scouts who dismissed his size were wrong to discount his athleticism and determination.
"It's not going to be easy for you to get to where I am, Danny. Your road from North Platte, to Chadron State, to New York, to New England and finally to San Diego is going to be filled with disappointment. There will be obstacles to overcome, and a lot of people will doubt you along the way."
The entire letter is worth a read. Maybe it can inspire another pint-sized athlete to refuse to quit, and to realize his own dreams.