ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — No, Phillip Lindsay never once thought he’d become the first undrafted offensive player to make the Pro Bowl. He’s been too busy making tacklers miss and general managers regret passing him over in the NFL draft just because he stands 5-foot-8.
“I’m an undrafted free agent. To be able to have 100 yards in a game was great. To get a touchdown, to be able to play at (Mile High Stadium), that’s the stuff right there that I dreamt about,” the Denver Broncos’ rookie running back said Wednesday. “The Pro Bowl is something that you think like five years down the line, three years down the line.”
After waiting seven rounds and never hearing his name called or his phone buzz on draft weekend, Lindsay signed with his hometown Broncos and when he survived cuts after training camp, he sought Hall of Famer Terrell Davis’ blessing to wear his old No. 30 jersey.
Yet, Lindsay said he’s been so focused on his next opponent that he didn’t even ponder the possibility of making the Pro Bowl when a couple of Cleveland Browns players told him after their game Saturday night that “our whole linebacker room voted for you for the Pro Bowl.”
Excluding special teams players, the only other undrafted rookie to make the Pro Bowl was Dallas Cowboys defensive back Everson Walls in 1981.
“That tells you what he’s done,” coach Vance Joseph said. “His first day with us, he was the sixth halfback on the depth chart. The sixth! Obviously, being a rookie free agent. Didn’t go to the combine. Wasn’t drafted. … He came in here just trying to make our football team.”
Lindsay started out as a special teams stud and didn’t even start in the backfield until midway through the season.
“Now, he’s in the Pro Bowl, so that speaks to his work ethic, his heart and his talent,” Joseph said. “So, it’s amazing what he’s accomplished in such a short time.”
Although Lindsay said, “Nobody knew about me when I got here, other than I was little,” teammate Bradley Roby said the veterans sure took notice of him right away.
“Very impressive. I know this, when he first got here, OTAs, you kind of feel the rookies out, see how they move. And I always felt that his movement was good,” Roby said. “I was like, ‘This guy’s fast, he’s quick, accelerates.’ I was thinking like if he can run with the pads on, he’s going to be nice.
“And he’s done nothing but prove that he’s worth. He should have been drafted, obviously. He’s a gem.”
The wild-haired rookie cracked up his teammates during team introductions by saying, “I’m Phillip Lindsay, I’m from Colorado. And I went to Colorado.”
Short and sweet.
Just like his stride.
The first player from the Broncos Futures Football middle school program to sign an NFL contract, Lindsay grew up in Aurora not far from the Broncos headquarters, and starred at Denver South High School and the University of Colorado, where his wild hair and relentless rushing style earned him the nickname “Tasmanian Devil.”
Lindsay, who is nine rushing yards shy of 1,000 and whose 5.5-yard average is second in the league, said he’s eager to go to the Pro Bowl with teammate Von Miller, the game’s reigning MVP, and he’s also eager to finally meet Saquon Barkley, the running back from Penn State whom the Giants drafted second overall.
Barkley is the only rookie running back who has more yards (1,155) than he does (991), although both have nine touchdown runs.
“It’s going to be fun to be able to finally talk to Saquon,” Lindsay said. “We always heard about each other, but we never got to see each other. So, it will be cool to hang out with each other.”
Lindsay had hoped to meet Barkley at the NFL combine last spring but he never received an invitation to the league’s annual gathering of top draft hopefuls, a snub that’s driven him all season along with going undrafted two months later.
Lindsay said he hopes his remarkable rise will inspire kids everywhere who are overlooked underdogs.
“You’ve got to keep pushing, you just never know. You’ve got to keep the faith no matter what,” Lindsay said. “Everybody can take anything from you, but they can’t take your faith. That’s what you’ve got to rely on. You’ve got to go for your dreams.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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