The Hard Life of an NFL Long Shot

Charles Siebert profiles the story of Pat Schiller, a Northern Illinois football player who is trying to make the NFL. The story gives an inside look of what it takes to make the NFL if your chances are low. Charles is Pat’s uncle, but don’t let that detail get in the way of superb reporting:

Being an undrafted free agent in the N.F.L. is an extended exercise in ego abnegation. You’re not only stripped of your college number; you’re exiled from the N.F.L.’s mandated numerical bracket for your given position. Linebackers on all final team rosters must bear a number in either the 50s or 90s. Pat, for now, was given 45. As for his fellow undrafted competitors, Max Gruder, a linebacker from the University of Pittsburgh, wore 46; Rico Council, a middle linebacker from Tennessee State, 43; and Jerrell Harris, an outside linebacker for last year’s champions, Alabama, 49. Some days in practice, Pat wore 40 and then was switched back to 45. Coaches and fellow players, meanwhile, were constantly confusing Pat with a third-year safety, Shann Schillinger, whose seniority naturally merited his getting dibs on the nickname “Schill,” thus saddling my nephew with — for obscure reasons — “Patty Melt.”

This story was, perhaps, more interesting to me because Pat Schiller was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, my hometown football team. I think it’s worth the read.

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