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Chargers Own a Rich History of Undrafted Free Agents
When the 2013 Chargers rookie minicamp kicks off this Friday, all eyes will be on the Bolts six draft choices. However, as the past has shown, the Chargers have a rich history of undrafted rookies who went on to play crucial roles on the team as well as in the league. Here are a few noteworthy cases.
Antonio Gates - The most famous of all undrafted free agents not only in Chargers history, but perhaps in the history of the NFL. Gates is considered a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, and it’s easy to see why. Over his first 10 seasons in the blue and gold, the tight end has helped redefine the position, catching 642 passes for 8,321 yards and 83 touchdowns. Last season, Gates became the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions. An eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time all-pro, Gates is a member of the Chargers 50th Anniversary Team and was named the league’s tight end for the All Decade Team of the 2000s.
Malcom Floyd – The Chargers wide receiver is a testament to what hard work and perseverance can do for you in the NFL. Floyd has risen from a practice squad player to a starter over the course of his nine years with the team, and is a reliable weapon for Philip Rivers. For his career, he’s tallied 233 receptions for 3,984 yards and 25 touchdowns. Floyd also continues to get better each season, having his best statistical season in 2012 with a career-high 56 catches for 814 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games.
Danny Woodhead – Entering his first season with the Chargers, Woodhead established himself as a key cog in the dynamic New England Patriots offense after going undrafted out of Chadron State. San Diego is his third-stop in the NFL , initially joining the New York Jets roster, where the diminutive 28-year old is expected to play a big role in Head Coach Mike McCoy’s offense. Over five years in the NFL, the 5-foot-8 running back has carried the ball 265 times for 1,263 yards and 10 touchdowns. Woodhead is also a threat in the passing game as he’s caught 100 passes for 1,069 yards and four scores.
Mike Harris – The undrafted free agent left tackle out of UCLA played a significant role for the Bolts last season, coming out of nowhere to be the team’s starter on the blind side. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder appeared in 15 games with nine starts. Harris made the move to left tackle after manning the right side for his entire collegiate career with the Bruins.
Nick Novak – The Chargers kicker entered the league in 2005 and spent time with five other NFL teams before finding a home here in San Diego. Novak initially joined the team in 2011 and converted 27 of 34 attempts. Last year, he was exceptional, connecting on 18 of 20 attempts with his lone two misses coming from beyond 50 yards.
Kris Dielman – A physical, nasty guard out of Indiana who played nine seasons with the Chargers. Dielman signed with the team heading into the 2003 season and became one of the best offensive linemen in franchise history. He appeared in 120 games for the Bolts and made 97 starts. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro, Dielman is a member of the Chargers 50th Anniversary Team.
Kassim Osgood - Yet another undrafted free agent in 2003, Osgood went on to become one of the top special teams players in team history. A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro, Osgood was named to the Chargers 50th Anniversary Team due to his special teams play.
Mike Tolbert –Tolbert went undrafted out of tiny Coastal College University in 2007, and the Chargers signed him in 2008. The running back made an immediate impact on the club and was a major part of the team’s offense over the next four years. During his career with the Bolts, Tolbert carried the ball 351 times for 1,435 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 109 catches for 1,012 yards and six scores.
Jacques Cesaire – A nine-year defensive end for the Chargers who was signed after going undrafted in 2003, Cesaire was a solid player for the Bolts during his tenure. The Southern Connecticut State University product started 66 of 109 games, recording 217 tackles and 12.5 sacks while forcing three fumbles.
Stephen Cooper – Signed in 2003, Cooper played nine seasons for the Bolts. The linebacker recorded 502 tackles, 9.5 sacks, eight fumbles and eight interceptions in 125 games with San Diego, making 63 starts in the process.