Top 10 NFL Players That Never Went to College


In the National Football League (NFL), college football is mostly considered a crucial stepping stone to the professional sports level. However, there have been various exceptional athletes who never attended college but still went on to have successful careers in the NFL. 

These players relied on their natural talent, dedication, and perseverance to make it to the top. In this article, we will highlight the top 10 NFL players who never went to college and still achieved remarkable success in the NFL sports league.

NFL Players Who Never Went to College

Brian Banks (Atlanta Falcons)

Brian Banks

The most inspirational NFL player who did not attend college was probably Brian Banks. In high school, Banks was a highly sought-after recruit, but everything was taken from him when he was wrongly accused of sexual assault. In high school, Brian Banks was a linebacker who garnered national attention.

Banks would agree to a plea bargain that would reduce his punishment. After a protracted ten-year battle to prove his innocence, Brian Banks was exonerated. 

The Atlanta Falcons would sign Banks in 2013 and he would take part in workouts and practices. Before the Falcons released him in August, he would also play in the preseason.

Lawrence Okoye, DE, San Francisco 49ers 

Lawrence Okoye

Lawrence Okoye never went to college but made it to the San Francisco 49ers for a brief stay. He never saw the field but did bounce around a few practice squads until 2017 before he was washed out of the league. Lawrence Okoye will turn 30 this year.

Jarryd Hayne (San Francisco 49ers) 

Jarryd Hayne

Former rugby league player Jarryd Hayne later made the NFL. Football was not Hayne’s sport in college. Jarryd Hayne attempted to play NCAA American football but dropped out of high school. He would be ineligible to play college football in the United States as a result.

In the 2015 NFL Season, Jarryd Hayne would make the switch to the NFL and join with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2015, he would make one start for the 49ers. He had 52 rushing yards on 17 tries throughout that contest. Following his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, he decided against playing in the NFL.

Robert Chancey (San Diego Chargers)

Robert Chancey

Robert Chancey decided to play baseball professionally after graduating from high school instead of going to college. In the sixth round of the 1992 MLB Draft, the Baltimore Orioles selected Chancey. 

He received a $108,000 signing bonus and played with the Gulf Coast Orioles for two seasons. Robert Chancey came to the San Diego Chargers in 1996 and played in the NFL for longer than four years. 

In those four years, he would only make eight starts. However, he would gallop for 320 yards and four touchdowns in those eight games.

Saverio Rocca, P, Philadelphia Eagles 

Saverio Rocca

Saverio Rocca played a type of football in Australia before moving to the United States, according to At age 34, he began his playing career.

Before retiring in 2013, he continued to punt for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins. This year, Saverio Rocca will turn 48.

Efe Obada (Carolina Panthers) 

Efe Obada

Efe Obada began his football career by playing with the London Warriors in the National Leagues of the British American Football Association. For the Warriors, he would take part in five contests. 

Before being released in order to create a place for linebacker Keith Smith in 2015, Obada played with the Dallas Cowboys for a short while. He was later released in 2016, after being added to the practice squad. 

Before settling down in Carolina, Efe Obada played for the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs. He would amass 10 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 5.5 sacks for the Panthers in the 2020 NFL Season.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers 

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates only played basketball in college, despite going there. Gates, a tight end who played from 2003 to 2018, is arguably the best NFL player who never played football in college. 

In his 236 career appearances, he accrued more than 11000 yards, 116 touchdowns, and 955 catches. This year, Antonio Gates will turn 41.

Ray Seals, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Ray Seals

Ray Seals, one of the more well-known players, never played football in college yet managed to infiltrate the NFL. He was a defensive end and nose tackle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1989 to 1993.

Later, from 1994 to 1995, he was a player with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He didn’t play in 1996 but did play for the Carolina Panthers, appearing in 14 games before retiring at the age of 32. This year, Ray Seals will turn 56.

Michael Lewis (New Orleans Saints) 

Michael Lewis

When Michael Lewis decided he wanted more out of life, he was operating a beer truck for Budweiser. Lewis had the chance to try out for the New Orleans Saints, and in 2000, he made the club. A player who didn’t play college football yet had a good NFL career could be found thanks to Michael Lewis.

He was chosen for one NFL Pro Bowl squad and one NFL All-Pro team throughout the course of his seven years in the NFL. During the 2002 NFL Season, he had his greatest season.

For the Saints, he amassed 2,647 all-purpose yards and scored three scores. He amassed 8,377 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns over the course of his career. The New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame induction was his greatest accomplishment.

Vince Papale, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Vince Papale

Using Mark Wahlberg as its leading man, Disney produced the film “Invincible” based on Papale’s memoir. When Papale was given the chance to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles, he was working as a part-time bartender. 

He entered the NFL in 1976 and played there through 1978. Papale participated in 41 games at that period. 70-year-old Vince Papale.


So, there are notable examples of players who skipped the classroom before reaching the pros. The finest NFL players who did not attend college all had very different career paths. 

Some had to start from scratch since they were undrafted free agents, like Steve Tasker and Kurt Warner. 

Others, including Antonio Gates and Deion Sanders, were exceptional athletes in sports other than football before making the conversion. 

Others, like Jim Brown and Gale Sayers, simply possessed natural talent and didn’t require a college education to hone their abilities.

No matter what their backgrounds, all of these players have shown that excelling in the NFL without a college degree is achievable. They serve as an example for young players worldwide who might not follow the conventional route to the NFL.

Shivangi Dubey
Shivangi Dubey
Shivangi is a US Sports Entertainment writer at Sportzhive. She has been a fan of sports since she was a child, and her passion for writing led her to pursue a career in journalism. Shivangi has prior experience writing about lifestyle topics, and she brings this expertise to her coverage of the US Sports Entertainment world. She is committed to providing fair and accurate assessments of the happenings in the sports world, both on and off the court.


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