Phillip Lindsay didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL scouting combine and his name wasn’t called during the draft.
Motivated by the snub, he made history.
The talented Denver Broncos running back became the first undrafted offensive player selected for the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He heads the list of undrafted rookies who’ve made an impact this season.
“At one point, I was just trying to make the team,” Lindsay said. “I was hoping to do some (gunner) reps, some kick return and hopefully catch some balls at punt return. When they gave me the news that I was going to the Pro Bowl, it was just a real emotional moment.”
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards, Philadelphia Eagles running back Josh Adams, New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Holton Hill have also made significant contributions to their teams after 32 teams passed on them in the draft.
Lindsay signed with his hometown club after playing four seasons at Colorado and was bold enough to seek permission from Hall of Famer Terrell Davis to wear his old No. 30 jersey after he earned a spot on the Broncos. He had 71 yards rushing in his debut and 107 yards in his second game. Lindsay moved into the starting lineup in Week 8 and has 1,037 yards, an average of 5.4 yards per carry and nine touchdowns with one game remaining. He also has 35 catches for 241 yards and one TD.
Lindsay is the third undrafted rookie with 1,000 yards in a season, joining Dominic Rhodes (1,104 in 2001) and LeGarrette Blount (1,007 in 2010).
“To be able to be elected to a Pro Bowl by your teammates, the people you’re playing against, the coaches, that means the world,” Lindsay said. “That means that they respect you. … Nobody knew about me when I first got here, other than I was little.”
Lindsay ran for 2,726 yards and 30 TDs in his final two seasons in college but was passed over in the draft mainly because of his size — he’s 5-foot-8. He had offers from other teams but chose the Broncos so he could live in his parents’ basement and save money.
“His first day with us, he was the sixth halfback on the depth chart. The sixth!” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “Obviously, being a rookie free agent. Didn’t go to the combine. Wasn’t drafted. … He came in here just trying to make our football team.”
Here’s a look at other undrafted rookies making an impact:
GUS EDWARDS: After playing three seasons at Miami and transferring to Rutgers for his final year of eligibility, Edwards signed a three-year contract with the Ravens in May. He began the season on the practice squad, played his first game in October and got just 15 carries in his first five games. Then Edwards had back-to-back 100-yard games as Lamar Jackson took over for the injured Joe Flacco at quarterback, and the Ravens (9-6) turned into a run-dominant offense and took the lead in the AFC North. Edwards leads the team with 642 yards, has a 5.1 average and two TDs. Jackson is right behind him with 605 yards on the ground. A Baltimore win Sunday earns it the AFC North title.
JOSH ADAMS: Despite running for 3,201 yards and 20 TDs in three seasons at Notre Dame, Adams had to go the free-agent route. He signed with the Super Bowl champions, earned a spot on the practice squad and made his NFL debut in Week 3. Adams got his chance after starter Jay Ajayi went down for the season, and Darren Sproles and Corey Clement were sidelined by injuries. He’s emerged as the leading rusher with 461 yards, has a 4.2 average and three TDs, helping the Eagles (8-7) remain in the playoff chase.
J.C. JACKSON: From Malcolm Butler to James Develin, the Patriots have scored often with undrafted rookies. Jackson, out of Florida Riverside Community College, is the latest to make a statement. One of the players New England picked up to help plug the hole left following Butler’s offseason departure, Jackson has appeared in 12 games and started the past four. The team’s confidence in him has grown each week and he’s performed well, hauling in a pair of interceptions. He’s been on the field for 89.3 percent of the snaps since December, and played every snap against the Bills. Jackson drew primary coverage duty on Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and held him to four catches for 40 yards on 10 targets in a Week 15 loss.
HOLTON HILL: Hill has played a lot on special teams and started two games for Minnesota, one each for regulars Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes because of injuries. He has one interception and seven pass breakups and has generally held up well in coverage when tested by a tough slate of opposing quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers twice, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Matthew Stafford.
ROBERT FOSTER: A wide receiver out of Alabama, Foster has 23 catches for 520 yards and two TDs for the Bills. His average of 22.6 yards per catch leads the team.
FRANKIE LUVA: The linebacker out of Washington State has played in 13 games for the Jets and has three sacks.
SHARIF FINCH: A linebacker out of Temple, Finch has been a key player on both defense and special teams for the Titans. Before injuring his shoulder in Week 15, he had 20 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, two quarterback pressures and two tackles for loss. He also has forced two fumbles and recovered another.
POONA FORD: The defensive tackle was the Big 12 defensive player of the year his senior year at Texas, but his size (5-foot-11, 310) caused teams to shy away from him. He’s played in 10 games for the Seahawks, including one start, and been strong in the run game.
AP Pro Football Writers Arnie Stapleton, Dennis Waszak Jr., Dave Campbell and Teresa Walker, and Sports Writers Kyle Hightower, John Wawrow and Tim Booth contributed.
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