The NFL is home to the best football players on the planet. We can all agree on that. But for some, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, there are quite a few NFL players who were completely overlooked coming out of high school.
Players who refused to let someone else’s opinion dictate their future. Guys who overcame the doubters and achieved their lifelong dream of playing football at the highest level.
Below is a list of current NFL players who were 2-star recruits (or worse) coming out of high school.
Table of Contents
- Josh Jacobs, RB
- Khalil Mack, OLB
- David Johnson, RB
- Shaquil Barrett, DE
- Darious Williams, CB
- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
- Aqib Talib, CB
- Hunter Renfrow, WR
- Tarik Cohen, RB
- Carson Wentz, QB
- T.Y. Hilton, WR
- Cooper Kupp, WR
- J.J. Watt, DE
- Josh Allen, OLB
- Jason Kelce, C
- Clay Matthews, OLB
- Bobby Wagner, LB
Josh Jacobs, RB
Josh Jacobs’ high school stats were so gaudy that local newspapers wouldn’t even print them. They thought his coach was lying.
For most of his high school career, he had:
- No local coverage
- No social media presence
- Zero stars on every recruiting website.
It wasn’t until the middle of his senior year that a random man in Texas called his father. And the rest is history.
Khalil Mack, OLB
Back in 2009, no one would’ve expected Khalil Mack to one day receive a 99 overall rating in Madden. In fact, back in college, he wore the number 46 as a reminder of what people thought of him (his NCAA Football rating was 46 out of 99).
Today, Khalil Mack is the most terrifying pass rusher in the NFL. In 2018, the Chicago Bears made him the highest-paid defender in league history. Do you think he’s worth it?
David Johnson, RB
Unranked out high school, David Johnson only had two D1 offers. Ultimately, he committed to Northern Iowa. After redshirting in 2010, Johnson spent the next four years setting new school records for career rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards.
The seventh running back selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, David Johnson is known as one of the top all-purpose backs in the league today.
Shaquil Barrett, DE
At a co-ed boarding school near Omaha, Barrett didn’t become a full-time starter until the end of his junior year. Shifting from offense to defense, he posted serious numbers in his senior season.
Nowhere on the national recruiting radar, Barrett originally attended the University of Nebraska Omaha, which dropped football from their athletic program shortly thereafter. So he transferred to Colorado State, where he amassed 18 sacks across three seasons, winning the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award his senior year.
Still, Barrett went undrafted in 2014 before signing with the Denver Broncos. He spent four seasons there as a rotational player before finding a home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – where he’s proving the doubters wrong.
Darious Williams, CB
Darious Williams was an unranked prospect who climbed from football obscurity to the biggest stage in the sport.
Williams was under-recruited out of high school and graduated with zero stars and zero football scholarship offers. He ultimately found a spot at D3 Marietta College in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
After a long road of ups and downs, Williams landed in the NFL as an undrafted free agent – first with the Baltimore Ravens and then latching on with the Los Angeles Rams. He’s now LA’s starting cornerback opposite All-Pro Jalen Ramsey.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
Jimmy G originally played running back in junior high. That is until one day his coaches got a look at his arm. Even still, he didn’t start at QB for Rolling Meadows (Ill.) until his junior season.
Back then, who would’ve thought he’d end up a second-round pick of perhaps the greatest dynasty in NFL history? And, even further, the starting quarterback of a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Aqib Talib, CB
Ranked 1,461st in the nation as a recruit, Aqib Talib had an uphill battle to prove himself. Despite lettering in three sports, and being named his high school’s Defensive Back of the Year, he wasn’t recruited by any top-tier college programs.
Talib ultimately decided on Kansas, where he displayed his versatility and world-class athleticism. As a team captain in his junior season, he helped lead the Jayhawks to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory.
Today, he’s a 5-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion.
Hunter Renfrow, WR
At 5’10” and 155 lbs, Hunter Renfrow surely didn’t have the look to play college football at a top school. That’s why only four schools in the country offered him a scholarship – Appalachian State, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, and Wofford.
But Renfrow passed up on each of those offers to walk-on at Clemson, betting on himself. During his redshirt season he worked his butt off and gained 20 pounds.
Back then, no one outside of him and his family ever would have believed he’d be selected in the NFL Draft. But here he is.