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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is known for a lot of things. It’s the country’s oldest technological research institution. RPI’s hockey team is a two-time NCAA champion and has produced NHL stars like Adam Oates and Joe Juneau. The school’s located in Troy, New York, birthplace of Uncle Sam and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was first published the town’s newspaper. While RPI is known for many things, football is not one of them. Yet when you check out the Chargers team roster there it is, “RPI”, tucked in between Rutgers and Missouri Western. Scan across and the name is attached to rookie free agent signed yesterday, quarterback Mike Hermann - the only Division III player on the roster.
Hermann is one of 88 players on the Chargers roster and one of 20 undrafted college free agents. He’s one of four quarterbacks on the team and, while it would be a shock to see the two- time Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year on the squad for the long haul, it wouldn’t be an unprecedented feat in San Diego history. Over the course of Chargers history the team has featured cornerbacks from Williams College, quarterbacks from United States International and defensive ends from Mt. San Antonio. Whether it was one year or more these players overcome tough obstacles, working their way from the lower levels of college football to at least have a taste of the NFL, which is exactly what Hermann hopes to do.
So in honor of those who have overcome long odds to live their dream, here, in no certain order, are some stand outs from small schools (Division III or lower).
Clinton Hart – Central Florida Community College (now College of Central Florida)
Though he didn’t begin his NFL career with the Chargers, strong safety Clinton Hart had his best years with San Diego. Hart broke into the league with the Eagles in 2003 and was signed off of waivers by the Chargers in 2004. The former Patriot (CFCC Patriot, not New England Patriot) played parts of six seasons with the Chargers and had his best season in 2007, intercepting five passes and registering 85 combined tackles.
Pat Curran – Lakeland (Wisc.)
Tight End Pat Curran started his college career breaking away from defenders who attended schools like Maranatha Baptist Bible College and the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Curran ended his NFL career catching touchdown passes from Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. In his four years with the Chargers starting in 1975 Curran had 97 receptions and three touchdowns. After retiring in 1978, Curran worked as a radio broadcaster for Chargers games.
Charlie McNeil – Compton Junior College (now El Camino College Compton Center)
An inaugural Charger. A Pro Bowler in 1961. A member of the Chargers 40th and 50th anniversary team. Defensive back Charlie McNeil may have had humble beginnings in college football but made the most of his five years in professional football. Number 27 still holds the all-time Chargers record for most single season interception return yards with 349 in 1961, a record that’s stood for 51 years.
Hank Bauer – California Lutheran
September 23rd, 2012 was special for Chargers legend Hank Bauer. As he called the Chargers game against the Atlanta Falcons, That day Bauer participated in his 500th career game as a player, coach or broadcaster. After being cut by the Cowboys in 1977, Bauer would participate in his 1st career game with the Chargers later that year. The Division III Cal-Lutheran product would spend five years with the team as a player, scoring 21 touchdowns and becoming a team captain. Bauer later would spend four years as the team’s special teams and running backs coach before moving on to broadcasting. Read