kurt warner NFL Players who skipped the combine

7 NFL Players Who Skipped the Combine

Every year, hundreds of college football players anxiously await their chance to showcase their abilities at the NFL Scouting Combine. This event is a crucial step in the NFL Draft process, where draft prospects’ physical and mental skills are thoroughly evaluated.

However, some NFL players who skipped the combine have managed to forge successful careers.

What is the NFL Combine?

The NFL Combine is a week-long event where the top college football prospects gather to undergo a series of tests, drills, and interviews with NFL teams. Players participate in physical exercises like the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and position-specific drills to demonstrate their speed, agility, and explosiveness.

The Combine provides a standardized platform for NFL scouts and coaches to assess the athletes’ physical attributes and potential.

This event originated in the 1970s when a few teams began holding centralized scouting events. Over time, it evolved into the modern-day NFL Combine, streamlining the evaluation process for all teams.

The Significance of the Combine

A strong performance at the Combine can significantly boost a player’s draft stock, potentially elevating them to an earlier round selection. However, while the Combine offers a controlled environment to measure physical abilities, it’s not the sole determinant of a player’s NFL potential. Scouts and teams also heavily analyze game film to evaluate a prospect’s football IQ, on-field instincts, and actual in-game performance.

Critics argue that the Combine overemphasizes physical traits like speed and strength, overlooking crucial intangibles like leadership, competitiveness, and mental toughness that are essential for success in the NFL.

NFL Players Who Skipped the Combine

NFL Players That Successfully Skipped the Combine

Despite the Combine’s importance, some players have proven that not participating in the event doesn’t preclude them from achieving greatness in the NFL.

Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler, a cornerback who made the game-saving interception in Super Bowl XLIX, wasn’t invited to the Combine. He had an impressive college career at West Alabama but went undrafted before signing with the New England Patriots.

Adam Thielen

Adam Thielen, star wide receiver, did not receive an invitation to perform at the 2013 NFL Combine, but he did attend a Regional Combine in Chicago, where he performed well enough to warrant an invitation to the Super Regional Combine.

He played at Minnesota State and initially made the Vikings’ roster as a tryout player before becoming one of the league’s top receivers.

James Harrison

James Harrison, a two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, wasn’t invited to the Combine despite a stellar college career at Kent State. He went undrafted but eventually signed with the Steelers in 2002 and became a force on their defense.

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates, famed tight end for the San Diego /Los Angeles Chargers, never even played college football. He was a standout basketball player who impressed the Chargers during a workout, leading to his NFL opportunity.

Wes Walker

Wes Welker, a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver known for his exceptional slot skills, wasn’t invited to the Combine coming out of Texas Tech. He went undrafted but later signed with the San Diego Chargers and became a key offensive weapon.

Tied for the record for 99-yard reception in the NFL.

Tyreek Hill

Tyreek Hill, one of the NFL’s most explosive playmakers , wasn’t invited to the Combine due to off-field issues in college. He went undrafted but first signed with the Chiefs in 2016 and went on to win Super Bowl LIV.

Kurt Warner

Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl MVP and Champion, wasn’t invited to the Combine after playing at Northern Iowa. He stocked groceries before getting his chance in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams and leading them to a Super Bowl title.


While the NFL Combine is an essential part of the draft evaluation process, it’s not the sole determinant of a player’s potential for success in the league. The examples above illustrate that hard work, dedication, and exceptional on-field performance can overcome the lack of a Combine invite or participation.

For aspiring young athletes, the message is clear: Focus on honing your skills, showcasing your talent on the field, and let your passion for the game drive you.

Don’t let a single event define your potential or deter you from chasing your dreams of playing in the NFL.