When it comes to NFL talent, few undrafted players get the chance to shine on the field. However, in Jason Peters’ case, seeing every name go by without hearing your own wasn’t a death-knell to his career. Instead, it was the start of a journey that proved his doubters wrong. Now in his 17th NFL season, Peters isn’t just great; he’s one of the best tackles in football.
Jason Peters makes it into the NFL
Although getting drafted into the NFL can seem like a given for the NFL’s biggest stars, most of the thousands of names who declare their eligibility every season are left watching from afar. This was the case with Peters, who once hoped to hear his name after his career at Arkansas. Despite this, he was left in the dust by every team who had a pick.
Peters’ career started at Arkansas in 2001. There, he played spotty minutes for the club. While most NFL hopefuls have to make big waves, Peters had a relatively quiet college career up until his junior season. Even that year, however, Peters only received the ball 21 times in 13 games. He had the talent to play for a major school, but it didn’t matter without a significant sample size.
Built like a lineman but entering as a tight end, people didn’t know how to use Peters’ unique combination of size and skill. Despite playing tight end, however, Peters served as a glorified lineman who could occasionally get the ball in a pickle. However, knowing that his draft stock was a long shot, Peters was ready to prove his worth without the insurance.
“I told my agent after about the sixth round it would be good if I could just pick my team,” Peters said (per Bleacher Report). “Instead of getting forced to go to a team and trying to fight, when it probably wouldn’t have been a fair fight for me.”
Peters proves his place
Eventually, Peters got the call that would change his life from the Buffalo Bills. Although his spot on the roster was not guaranteed, he was invited to train with the team and earn his spot. He did not disappoint. Now committed to life as a tackle, Peters played in just five games with the Bills. However, in a sport where even the biggest picks can often take years to see the field, Peters’ inclusion into the Bills’ rotation was no small task.
Over the next five years, Peters went from fringe NFL talent to a Pro Bowl starter with the club. However, after moving from Buffalo to Philadelphia following the 2008 season, Peters took his game to another level. He began his Eagles career with a pair of Pro Bowl seasons to match the number he had in Buffalo. By 2011, however, the 29-year-old had more to prove.
Peters ended that season with his first All-Pro season. He followed that up with another All-Pro season in 2013 after missing the entire 2012 season. Now 38 years old, Peters has been in Philadelphia for over a decade. He is a fan favorite who played a significant role in the team’s Super Bowl season. While his career may wind down shortly, he has a case for the greatest undrafted player ever.
Is Peters the best undrafted player ever?
Being undrafted isn’t a death knell. Kurt Warner famously waited until his late twenties to get a full-time spot in the NFL, details Stadium Talk. However, tackles rarely get the type of opportunity to emulate that path to success, and Peters has risen to the task with flying colors. Peters might not be the absolute greatest undrafted player ever. Still, his importance to his position and endless longevity put him in the conversation.
Mixed in with many quarterbacks and big-name players, Peters is currently No. 20 on the list of the league’s highest earners for their career. His hard work and ability to balance size with speed make him a force to be reckoned with, even as he veers toward his forties.
When he inevitably hangs it up, Peters has a real shot of becoming the rare undrafted player that makes it to the NFL Hall of Fame. Not bad for a player who had to forge his own path to glory.