Making it in the NFL

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Justin Vanfulpen -

SAGINAW - Being an undrafted rookie free agent is not the way that any player dreams about coming into the NFL.

Every player sits on their couch, or is at a friends or family members' house, watching ESPN coverage of the NFL draft waiting for their cell phone to ring or their name to be announced on the platform in New York -- that they will hear their name that day. But many of them never do, but that doesn’t stop them from dreaming of making it in the NFL.

After the draft they look for a team that they believe they have the best shot of making it with, and then they get into a training camp and try to make it on a NFL squad.

Last year, there where three undrafted rookie free agents that made the Detroit Lions roster -- two on defense and one on offense. Defensive end James Hall of the University of Michigan, cornerback Jimmy Wyrick out of the University of Minnesota, and wide receiver Larry Foster of LSU. All three players last season did play and contribute, but each and everyone one of them is looking to play more this season and be even better then they were last year.

Last year, wide receiver Larry Foster was active for the final ten games of the season and was named Mel Farr Rookie of the Year, as voted by his teammates. He finished with 17 catches for 175 yards and 1 TD, he also ran with the ball twice for 31 yards. He was a very good special teams player as well with 11 tackles and one blocked punt against the New York Giants.

James Hall showed promise at the end of the season, and was active for 6 games total and had two tackles, one sack, one pass defended, and also one forced fumble. He also played on special teams and end up with 3 tackles.

Jimmy Wyrick was active for the first six games before he was hurt and was put on injured reserve for the remainder on the '00 season. He ended up with 4 total tackles and 5 special team's tackles.

Now that these players have gotten their feet and have been in a training camp, they have a better idea of what to expect for this season.

"I have a good idea what to expect and what is expected of me,” said Hall.

But they know that just because they made the team last season, they still must prove to the new coaching staff that they can play and perform.

“Basically, I'm in the same situation that I was with a few differences as far as contract wise,” said Foster. “(As far as) Making the team, I'm in the same boat I was in last year. I have to perform, I have to come out and do well everyday."

“To me I have the same mentality, it is a whole new staff, so they're coming and evaluating everyone on their own,” said Wyrick. “So with me being a rookie free-agent last year it is the same frame of mind. I have to go out there and make the team just like a lot of the rookies.”

But making the team last year does give them an advantage over where they were last season.

“I came back this year with a little more confidence because I played and I know I can do it. So that is always good,” said Foster.

“The opportunity to be on the field early is 110% better then it was last year,” said Hall.

So what did these three guys do in the off-season to make sure that they had the best chance of making the team this year?

"I tried to get as lean as possible, I worked on my flexibility, and speed, explosion,” Hall said.

"I played a lot of basketball, I ran on my own, got my mind right, did that for mental preparation and basically talked with my loved ones,” comment Foster.

“I worked out twice a day. I talked to the coaches about some of the things that need to be done. I tried to go out there and improve and come into training camp better then I did last year, and hopeful I’ve done that and I continue to improve,” said Wyrick.

Even with the change in the coaching staff, and the change in the offense and the defense, it is not going to phase these players.

“I just want to get on the field, what ever it takes for me to learn and get out there on the field that’s my job,” Wyrick said.

"Same defense I played at Michigan," commented Hall.

But the biggest change came in the offense, where the Lions will be running the West Coast offense this season, which is a big change from last year's offense.

"Last year was my first offense in the NFL, I thought it could have been productive,” said Foster. "But this year we have a lot more flexibility on our routes we have a lot of options, coach always stressed that we should never get covered, which is true because if we are covered we can always take a detour, so that is always good."

Each of these three players could land a second consecutive roster slot, and just add to the growing list of players that have made the Lions, and become successful in the NFL despite being an undrafted rookie free agent. That list includes players such as starting safety Ron Rice, starting center Eric Beverly, or backups such as Lamar Campbell, Kywin Supernaw, Brock Olivo, Kerlin Blaise, and Travis Kirscke.

Each of the aforementioned Lions didn’t hear their name called either day in April, but found a way to make it in the NFL, and live out their dreams.

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