Safety Jahleel Addae knows what it’s like to overcome the odds.
As an undrafted rookie, he wasn’t sure he’d even make the Chargers roster in 2013, much less be here two years later.
Now, he’s fighting for a starting job at strong safety, to be on the field alongside Eric Weddle.
“I feel good,” Addae said recently. “I continue to tell myself that it’s a blessing to be in this position. I just continue to work and stay hungry like I was my first year as an undrafted free agent. Whatever happens, whatever cards are dealt my way, I’ll be ready to play them. “
Addae has made five starts over the past two seasons, appearing in 27 games for the Chargers. He’s notched 80 total tackles during that time and has made a name for himself as a physical, fearless safety. This past offseason was used to improve his speed and strength, something he would often document in his Instagram videos.
Also competing for the starting role is Jimmy Wilson, who played the last four years with the Miami Dolphins. Wilson started 13 of 14 games last season and recorded a career-high 58 tackles.
He knows all about overcoming the odds too, having spent two years in a Los Angeles jail before being acquitted of murder charges in 2009 and ultimately continuing his path to the NFL.
Wilson, who played both corner and safety in Miami, is no stranger to competition.
"I’ve never really been handed nothing in my life, so I always like to grind," said Wilson, who saw his most playing time in his last season with the Dolphins. "The competition makes a team better. The more depth you have on a team, the better your team will be. It brings out the best in you and the best in the other person."
Whereas Addae has had two seasons in this defense, Wilson is having to learn the nuances and tendencies that come with joining a new team.
“I think he’s done a good job so far,” head coach Mike McCoy said. “He’s made a couple mistakes … You’ve gotta figure it out and play fast. Eric [Weddle], the relationship he had with [Marcus Gilchrist], it didn’t take a lot of communication. They’d look at each other, a little wink here or there, whatever they were doing, a certain signal. Jimmy has to get up to speed with that. It’ll come with time. “
So far in training camp, Wilson and Addae have rotated days with the first team at the strong safety position.
“It’s going to be a competitive battle,” head coach Mike McCoy said. “We’re going to give everyone an opportunity. We have some preseason games to play, a lot more practice, and we’re going to keep it competitive. They’re all going to play. As you get in, whether it’s a nickel situation or dime situation, they’re going to have their role on the football team and they’ll create that themselves over time.”