By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on June 17, 2014
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went from a fifth-round pick in 2011 to the best defensive back in the NFL the past two seasons. Before Sherman made it big with the "Legion of Boom," there were other pro athletes who beat the odds like him and proved the naysayers wrong. Here now are 10 of the greatest out-of-nowhere success stories in sports.
Despite a solid college basketball career at Northeastern University, José Juan Barea went undrafted in 2006. He was eventually signed by the Dallas Mavericks, with whom he worked his way up from being the third-string point guard to backing up future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. Barea proved his worth during the Mavs' 2011 championship run, when his speed and big-play ability helped the Mavericks defeat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
After completing his college career at Kent State University, Harrison went undrafted in 2002. At 6-foot and 242 pounds, Harrison was deemed too small to be an effective NFL linebacker. He bounced around for two years before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After being cut four times in his career, Harrison became a star in Pittsburgh, winning two Super Bowls. His interception in Super Bowl XLIII was one of the greatest plays in history.
Ben Wallace was an undrafted NBA player who was a benchwarmer during his first two seasons with the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards). In 1999, Wallace was traded to the Orlando Magic, where he lasted only one season before being traded to the Detroit Pistons. Wallace flourished in Detroit, where he developed into a dominant defensive player. Wallace then helped lead the Pistons to the 2004 NBA Championship.
Victor Cruz had a rollercoaster football career at UMass, where he struggled to keep his grades up and lost his scholarship. Cruz went undrafted in 2010, but was given a chance by the New York Giants. In the preseason that year, Cruz torched the New York Jets for three touchdowns. In 2011, Cruz set the team's single-season receiving record with 1,536 yards en route to a victory in Super Bowl XLVI. Cruz had a touchdown in that game.
After graduating from Eastern Illinois University, Tony Romo went undrafted in 2003, becoming the third-string quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. In '06, Romo worked his way up to starter and helped the Cowboys reach the playoffs. Romo was named to the Pro Bowl that same year and two more in '07 and '09. Romo has also been successful off the field as well, having previously dated Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood.
Jeremy Lin, the first Asian-American NBA player of Taiwanese-Chinese descent, went down one of the unlikeliest of paths on his way to becoming "Linsanity." Lin chose Harvard University, where he was named to the All-Ivy League first team on two separate occasions. Despite his success, Lin went undrafted in the NBA and bounced around the league before starring with the New York Knicks and earning a big contract with the Houston Rockets.
In 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Mike Piazza in the 62nd round of the MLB draft. Then-manager Tommy Lasorda selected Piazza as a favor to Mike's father, Vince Piazza, who grew up with Lasorda. Originally a first baseman, Piazza went on the become one of the greatest catchers in MLB history. Piazza was the 1993 Rookie of the Year award winner, made 12 All-Star appearances and helped the Mets reach the 2000 World Series.
The Legion of Boom would not be what it is today without Richard Sherman. Before he became a star, Sherman was a fifth-round pick in 2011. A year later, Sherman was named Associated Press NFL All-Pro First Team, but was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. This past season, Sherman led the league with eight interceptions, made the play that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, and dominated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
After going undrafted in the 1994 NFL Draft, Kurt Warner got a tryout with the Green Bay Packers. Warner was cut during the preseason and took a job bagging groceries at a local supermarket. Warner played four years of Arena Football before getting a call from the St. Louis Rams in 1998. A year later, Warner led the Rams to their only Super Bowl victory, and was named MVP. Warner then went on to lead the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII.
Before Tom Brady became one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, he was just the seventh quarterback selected in the 2000 NFL Draft and the 199th overall pick. With Drew Bledsoe already solidified as the starter, Brady was expected to be nothing but a career backup. After Bledsoe was injured, Brady led the Patriots to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady has won two more Super Bowls and led the Pats to a 16-0 regular season in '07.
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