Junior Rosegreen: Finally, A Chance to Shine

Among every year's class of undrafted free agents, at least one player will prove those who passed on him to be a tad foolish. Junior Rosegreen of Auburn, currently participating in Seattle's minicamp, might be the next to add his name to a rather distinguished list.

Please determine the common denominator among the following thirty-six names:

John Randle, Dave Krieg, Rufus Porter, Joe Nash, Norm Johnson, Eugene Robinson, Warren Moon, Priest Holmes, Rod Smith, Willie Brown, Willie Wood, Nate Newton, Nick Lowery, Kurt Warner, Jessie Tuggle, Jim Burt, Donnie Shell, Jim Langer, Jay Hilgenberg, Wayne Chrebet, Joe Jacoby, Mark Tuinei, Marcus Pollard, Richard “Tombstone” Jackson, Adewale Ogunleye, Larry Izzo, London Fletcher, Deron Cherry, Everson Walls, Jeff Garcia, Bernie Parmalee, Antonio Gates, Joe Andruzzi, Frank Minnefield, Bill Bates, and the late Sam Mills.

Give up? Well…those among you who count yourselves as Seahawks diehards were probably tipped off with the first few. For the rest of you, these are the names of players who have all written their own pages in the NFL Chronicles, despite the fact that not one of them was drafted.

Yes, there was a time when “Mr. Irrelevant” looked like a better value pick than Priest Holmes and Warren Moon.

It would be a much simpler story if the 255 players drafted in 2005 by NFL teams were the only ones coming out of college, looking for an opportunity in the NFL. But that is not – and never has been - the case. For every highly-touted pick that sends fans dreaming and leaves analysts grasping for the eloquence required to describe their incredible skills, there are ten outside the bubble – the undrafted free agents who are currently striving to prove their doubters wrong in any one of twenty-six NFL minicamps happening this weekend.

And as we have observed, draft experts aren’t always on the mark. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt – the personnel guru of the Dallas Cowboys for the first 29 years of the franchise’s existence – recently recalled the success his teams had with undrafted players. “When I was with the Cowboys, we did extremely well with undrafted free agents,” Brandt wrote on April 24. “Two of our best defensive backs of all time, Cliff Harris and Cornell Green, were both undrafred free agents. Another player, Drew Pearson, led the league in receiving two separate years.”

Seahawks fans know the story of Randle, a UDFA defensive tackle out of Texas A&M Kingsville in 1990 who went on to a 14-year career in the NFL with Minnesota and Seattle that included multiple Pro Bowl trips. And Krieg, the most successful quarterback in Seahawks history (at least until Matt Hasselbeck has a few more years behind center) came out of tiny Milton College and signed as an undrafted free agent in 1980. Playing in Seattle through 1991, and in the NFL through 1998, Krieg is currently 10th all-time in NFL history in pass attempts and completions, and 9th all-time in touchdowns, according to profootballreference.com. He was a three-time Pro Bowler himself and currently has his name in the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor.

This year, one player who was debited to the point of being undrafted is Auburn safety Junior Rosegreen, who is in camp with the Seahawks right now. And with Rosegreen, the issue of his undrafted status seems to raise more questions than there are answers.

An underrated but talented player throughout his time at Auburn, Rosegreen was thrust into the national spotlight on October 2, 2004 when he tied a 65-year-old Southeastern Conference record and made Auburn single-game history with four interceptions against Tennessee . He closed out his collegiate career by making his 40th consecutive start in the 2005 Sugar Bowl. Auburn beat Virginia Tech 16-13 in that game, closing out a 13-0 season and raising some very serious questions as to just who the best team in college football really was.

Redshirting as a freshman in 2000, he played mostly on special teams for Auburn in 2001, recording 24 tackles (16 solos) with two pass deflections. Rosegreen shifted to strong safety as a sophomore. He finished the 2002 season with a career-high 63 tackles (20 solos) with a 7-yard sack and four stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Rosegreen split time between weakside cornerback and strong safety in 2003. He collected 52 tackles (28 solos) with six pass deflections and an interception. He returned to safety in 2004, posting 57 tackles (40 solos) with six interceptions, three pass breakups and three stops for losses, earning All-Southeastern Conference honors. His six picks were the most by an Auburn player in one season since Brian Robinson had eight in 1994.

He finished his career with 196 tackles (104 solos), a 7-yard sack, nine stops for losses of 21 yards and two forced fumbles. He also recovered two fumbles, deflected 16 passes and gained 48 yards on nine interception returns.

During Senior Bowl practice in January, Rosegreen made an impression by picking off a pass thrown by Georgia QB David Greene. Greene, of course, was the Seahawks’ third-round pick this year. “I was just reading the quarterback and I broke on the ball and made something happen,” Rosegreen said.

A good deal of his success at Auburn had been attributed to his athleticism, but he also has a great desire to be a student of the game. At least two NFL talent evaluators pegged him as a player to watch along the way, and one of those reviews is the reason he’s getting reps at safety in Kirkland right now.

During Senior Bowl week, Tampa Bay secondary coach Mike Tomlin, who coached all of the secondary players for the South squad, said that Rosegreen was the type of player who has what it takes to make it in the NFL. “He is a wired guy - football is important to him and at the same time it is fun,” Tomlin said. “These guys realize that they are on a week-long job interview, but it is still the same game that they have played their entire lives and that is the approach that he has taken this week. That is why he is having fun. That is why he is making plays and that is why he is getting better.”

Rosegreen stands 5’11” and weighs 190, which is a bit smaller than your standard NFL safety. However, Tomlin noted that the 2004 All-American has plenty of other measurables to help him overcome the perception that his size is a deficiency.

“There is a lot of fight in that dog,” Tomlin said of Rosegreen. “If you look at the great ones in our league, they come in all shapes and sizes. Ideally, on draft day, we are looking for that cookie cutter guy, that perfect guy, but the great ones come in all shapes and sizes and these (scouts) understand that.”

When Seahawks president Tim Ruskell visited Auburn ’s Pro Day on March 21, Rosegreen was one of many players that the long-time player personnel maven observed.

On the day, Rosegreen’s best 40-yard dash times went under 4.5 on some watches and there was no hiding his athleticism in the vertical jump with a 39-inch leap.

“Absolutely - he is an example of a guy who improved his standing with his workout,” Ruskell noted. “This pro day is another chance to compete and show what you can do. “These types of days are good because some of the guys didn’t work out at the Combine or weren’t invited to the combine, so you need to see those players as well to slot them in to where you think they need to go. It is valuable all-around,” Ruskell said. Correspondingly, Jason Caldwell of AUTigers.com (Scout.com’s Auburn site) first confirmed on April 27 that the Seahawks had been in touch with Rosegreen’s agent.

With all this, why wasn’t Junior Rosegreen drafted? Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com’s noted analyst, confirmed that his size was a major concern. “He's a bit of a ‘tweener’, and that is the biggest reason he wasn't drafted,” Rang said. “He played well at the Senior Bowl, however. He saw time at both safety and cornerback there. Rosegreen has good instincts and plays with aggression.”

Mark Murphy, the publisher of AUTigers.com, concurs. “Junior is undersized for an NFL strong safety, which is his natural position. He has played some cornerback at Auburn, but he was much better at safety. He needs to be about two or three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier,” said Murphy. “However, he plays big. He is a very physical player and is a guy who is totally dedicated to football. He lives it, eats it and breathes it.”

When asked on April 27 about Ruskell’s predilection for players who produce, regardless of their measurables, Rang remarked: “(Rosegreen is) exactly the kind of guy Tim Ruskell will take a chance on,”

Now that Tim Ruskell has taken that chance, and the Seahawks have made the initial investment in his future, it is up to Junior Rosegreen to show the NFL what he can do.

Certainly he’ll have the legacies of the thirty-six names listed above - and every other NFL player who got to the top and stayed there, despite those who shunned them in the draft - as a reminder that everything rests on what he does now.

Not where he wasn’t taken then.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at doug@seahawks.net.


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