I would like to introduce you to a man named Tony Wragge. Tony is a former college teammate of mine at New Mexico State. He was my host on my official visit there and is one of my best friends to this day. I had the great opportunity to travel back to Las Cruces, NM to see Tony get inducted into the New Mexico State Hall of Fame. The experience was something I will never forget and I am so happy and proud of my friend.
Tony started at center last year for the St. Louis Rams, his ninth season in the NFL but his road to football glory was not typical.
Tony is from a small farming town in Nebraska. Bloomfield, Nebraska…every heard of it? Doubt it. Bloomfield’s population is smaller than the enrollment at most small high schools.
He worked with his father and on the side played a little football for the tiny Bloomfield Bees. His only scholarship offer was from former head coach Tony Samuel to New Mexico State.
This is my first point of the article. Many people think you need to live in a big town to get noticed and/or receive a scholarship. Sure, it is easier but living in a small community doesn’t make it impossible to move on to the next level.
After starting 34 straight games at NMSU and being named all-conference three times, Wragge was not invited to the combine nor drafted. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Arizona Cardinals. NMSU is not known as an NFL pipeline, producing a draft pick once every two to three years. Tony was cut during the preseason but the next point of my article is, he went back to school after being released. He re-enrolled at NMSU and worked towards finishing his degree. The ironic part is, he was sitting in class a few months later when he was called by the Cardinals and brought back in, and was signed to the practice squad after injuries decimated that Arizona offensive line.
He ended up starting one game that year and bounced around the NFL, arena league and NFL Europe over the next three years but the important fact is, he finished his degree during this time.
After bouncing around, he was picked up by the 49ers and played there for six seasons, showing versatility; playing tackle, guard and center. Which brings me to two more points. One, versatility is crucial in recruiting. If someone beats you out at one spot, be flexible enough to play another. Don’t be uncoachable, find a way to get on the field. My second point is, most people would have hung up their cleats after being cut four times.
Again after being cut by San Francisco, he was picked up by St. Louis and moved his family to the Midwest.
As a recruiting analyst for Pros2Preps and Scout.com I speak with kids and parents daily and there are a ton of key points and lessons to be learned from this article.
One, it is not easy to make it in the NFL.
Two, you do have to live in a big city to get a DI scholarship or play at the biggest college to make it in the NFL.
Three, perseverance is key.
Four, get your degree!!