And so it goes. A little over six weeks ago NFL Training Camps opened with optimistic energy. Thirty-two clubs entered the official start of the 2012 Preseason with hopes of a Super Bowl Championship, playoff appearance, or at least some signs of improvement upon their efforts from the season before. The arduous process of assembling 90 man rosters over the course of seven months started with NFL front offices looking under every rock, checking every nook and cranny for available talent to improve their chances this season; Reserve Futures, Unrestricted Free Agency, the 2012 NFL Draft, trades, waiver claims and street Free Agents.
Putting together a roster
Through offseason conditioning, OTA’s, mini-camps and two-a-days, the NFL’s pool of professional football players have been under the microscope of evaluation on the road to 53. Today the “Turk cometh”. Teams were required to reduce their rosters by 22 from the first cuts to 75. There were some surprises, there always are. Veteran stars on their last legs were sent packing, rookies just getting started were told they were finished. Most of the media coverage focused on those that “didn’t” versus those that “did”.
We know the names of the top draft picks and high dollar Free Agents cemented on to rosters via the financial investments made by their clubs in hopes of getting a reciprocal performance, or “bang for their buck”. But how about the “no names”? How about the players that have toiled in obscurity, working on their second, third and even fourth opportunity to make an NFL roster? These are the guys that run down and cover punts, secure the edge on PAT’s, and make the tackles, blocks, runs and interceptions late in the 4th quarter of Preseason games.
Players GM’s are most proud of
As General Manager these were the players you were most proud of. These were the guys that you saw a glimpse of something on a Preseason tape, whose Tuesday morning workout caught your eye late in December, or who had been signed as an undrafted College Free Agent and were just looking to prove they could play.
In 2010 I spent a year in the United Football League with the expansion Omaha Nighthawks. We filled our roster primarily with aged vets looking for one last opportunity to break back into the NFL and secure that last chance to show they still had something left. But there was a small group of guys defined by a Preseason play, a Tuesday workout or undrafted status, that filled out our final roster.
Matt Overton – Western Washington
Matt Overton was one of those guys. Matt grew up in Tracy, California and starred on the local high school team as a two-way four year starter. He went to Diablo Valley College before transferring to Western Washington where he was a team captain and two-year starter at defensive end and long snapper. Overton was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007 by the Seattle Seahawks but never made the active roster. His journey would go through the Tri-Cities Fever of the Arena 2 League, the Florida Tuskers of the UFL, back for another camp with the Seattle Seahawks and then to Omaha for the past two seasons.
Overton’s love of the game and kids would lead him to co-found “Led By Pros” in Omaha, NE with fellow Nighthawk teammates Chad Hall and Maurice Clarett. “Led By Pros offers a youth football academy and helps young athletes to succeed in life and in sport.” Matt has passed on to aspiring young football players in inner city Omaha the idea of having a dream and never giving up. He not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.
Indianapolis Colts sign a long snapper
A team looking to rebuild took a chance on this two-time Training Camp, Arena 2, UFL veteran. On April 3, 2012, Matt Overton signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts in hopes of fulfilling a dream he’s pursued for the past five years; through Seattle, Kennewick, Orlando, back to Seattle and Omaha. At 27 he’s no rookie, and a lot of players his age have already come and gone in the National Football League. Overton toiled through OTA’s, mini-camps, and two-a-days into the Preseason with hopes of showing his consistency as a reliable and accurate long snapper.
He snapped against St. Louis, on to Pittsburgh, out in D.C., and then back home one last time versus Cincinnati. He endured the limited, but high pressure situations in practice, snapped against the stopwatch, snapped against a net. Matt Overton snapped, snapped, snapped.
Today the singular absence of a phone call from a personnel intern or General Manager Ryan Grigson’s assistant “snapped” him on to the 2012 Indianapolis Colts Active Roster. Not all NFL roster cut stories are about high profile players. Many are about Fever, and Tuskers, and Nighthawks.
Congratulations Matt, well done!