Union City's Pedro Sosa was one of those players. In the months prior to the NFL Draft, Sosa, the former Union Hill standout who had a brilliant career at Rutgers, thought he was going to get selected in the draft.
Pre-draft prognosticators had listed offensive tackle Sosa as a possible second or third round selection. Others had Sosa mapped out to be a pick somewhere in the fifth or sixth round. Either way, Sosa was going to be drafted. It was destiny.
However, it was learned that Sosa played the final four games of Rutgers' season with an injured knee, a torn patella tendon that was going to require surgery. So while Sosa attended the NFL player combines in Indianapolis, he wasn't able to participate in the physical portion and that inability, combined with the knee surgery, kept Sosa off many a draft board.
"After the combine, I had the knee surgery and was told it was going to take four months to rehab the knee," Sosa said.
So on draft day, no one bothered to call his name or call him on the phone. Sosa was not drafted.
"I was watching the draft, but then I just stopped," Sosa said. "I just stopped waiting for the call. It was pretty frustrating not getting drafted. But you can't control what other people do. I just had to work on rehabbing the knee and getting better. But it was definitely frustrating. After I played at a high level and was told that I had a shot, when you don't get drafted, it's pretty upsetting."
Sosa was rehabilitating the knee at Rutgers, working with the athletic trainers there to be able to come back. He never gave up hope.
"I knew my situation and I knew I'd eventually get my shot," Sosa said. "I just didn't know where."
And when other non-drafted players were signing free agent contracts and heading to training camps with NFL clubs, Sosa still didn't hear anything.
"I understood not getting picked up by a team, because everyone knew that I really couldn't do anything for four months," Sosa said. "I wasn't going to be able to participate in any spring drills. So thinking about going to a training camp was just a waste of time."
There were a handful of NFL teams that told Sosa that they still would be interested in him once he completely rehabilitated the knee.
"By the end of July, I was ready to work out for a few teams," Sosa said. "But nothing happened. It was a little different for me. For the first time in a while, I had the summer off. It felt pretty weird to me."
As training camps began in late July, Sosa was still a player without a team. He tried to keep a stiff upper lip and hope that some team would give him a chance, but he was running out of time, with the NFL season ready to kickoff next week.
"I just waited for my chance," Sosa said. "I just kept working and waiting. I didn't give up hope."
When the Miami Dolphins contacted Sosa and told him that they were interested in signing him, Sosa was a little stunned.
"It was a little weird," Sosa said. "The timing was a little off, considering that training camp is almost over. But I was confident in my ability and thought that if they were going to give me a shot, I had a couple of days to prove myself."
Sosa was called to Miami for a workout last Sunday. He worked out with the Dolphins on Monday and was then signed to a two-year contract with the Dolphins a day later. His status on the current roster is unknown. More than likely, Sosa will remain with the Dolphins' practice squad until he works his way into condition.
"My knee feels fine, better than ever," Sosa said. "They said that they like me. If I'm on the roster or the practice squad, it doesn't matter. Either way, it's good for me. I just have to get my feel for football back and go from there."
Sosa has been busy for the last week trying to learn the Dolphins' offensive plays. He hoped to be able to get in for some snaps during the team's final preseason game.
"The whole organization has been great," Sosa said. "I thank God that they're giving me a chance. I think they know my ability and background. I'm pretty strong willed and level headed. I just have to get to learn the plays."
Sosa was asked how his first meeting with legendary Bill Parcells, the Dolphins' new director of player personnel, turned out.
"I certainly knew who he was," Sosa said. "It was pretty cool."
So a kid who came to Union City from the Dominican Republic seven years ago, having never played a down of football before coming to Union Hill High School, is now a player in the National Football League.
"I know a lot of guys don't get a chance like this," Sosa said. "I have been blessed. I used my ability to the fullest. It's been a great ride. I'm just going to continue to progress and see where it takes me. It's all just so amazing."
If Sosa sticks with the Dolphins, he will become the first product of Union Hill to play in the NFL. Previously, Frank Winters came from Union City and had a fine 12-year career in the NFL, mostly with the Green Bay Packers, but Winters was a product of Emerson.
Whatever happens, Pedro Sosa is a player in the NFL. It's truly an amazing story, considering where he came from. - Jim Hague