Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By JOHN MANASSO  |  Last updated 9/2/13
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. A few years ago, after he graduated high school and before he attended college, Ryan Schraeder drove a truck as his full-time job, delivering steaks to restaurants in his hometown of Wichita, Kan. On Saturday, Schraeder, an offensive tackle, celebrated making the Falcons active roster by going to dinner with friends and eating a steak the biggest one on the menu, he said. Schraeder was one of four undrafted college free agents who earned a spot on the teams 53-man roster the most in the six seasons that general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have run the Falcons. The others were offensive tackle Terren Jones, the heaviest player on the team at 341 pounds who also stands 6-foot-7, and linebackers Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow. Three of those players were from programs below the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level: Schraeder went to Division II Valdosta State; Worrilow attended Delaware and Jones came out of Alabama State. Bartu played at Texas State, which only joined FBS in 2011. In all, 10 of the Falcons 53 players are rookies. In comparison, five other Falcons Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant, Steven Jackson, Asante Samuel and Osi Umenyiora have at least 10 seasons in the league for a combined 61 years of NFL experience. During training camp, Smith attributed the success of players like Worrilow and Bartu, who appears poised to play on passing downs, to the organizations scouting staff. Dimitroffs background is as a college scout. The Falcons have four other players on the active roster who were undrafted in past seasons and who they have signed and developed themselves: wide receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis, backup quarterback Dominique Davis and long snapper Josh Harris. With the benefit of a years perspective, Dominique Davis talked about what the feeling was like when he made the team. Its a lot harder being undrafted than being a drafted guy, Davis said. Youve got a lot to prove. Youve got to beat out a couple of guys to make the team. When they tell you youve made the team, its like a dream come true. ... You really appreciate what you do before everything what you did to get there to make the team and its really special. Schraeder, as has become legend during training camp, grew roughly a foot late during his high school career and was primarily a baseball and basketball player. He did not go directly college but when he did, he attended junior college and began playing football. He landed at Valdosta State where he was part of a national championship team before Falcons scouts found him. He appears as if he has a chance to play, perhaps as the jumbo tight end in the teams short-yardage personnel groups. I felt pretty good but you never know in this business, Schraeder said of his anxieties on making the team. I was prepared for anything. Jones was probably among the final players to make the squad. He said on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET when final cuts were due, he attended his alma mater's game in Montgomery, Ala., to try and ease his nerves. He said many of his former teammates cast an eye towards him as the deadline passed. I was like let me check the phone and I had made the roster, Jones said. We were at the game so we were pretty happy. Jones said he started off camp slowly, as the Falcons offense was far more complex than what he had run in college. But he said he felt more confident as time passed. I just really didnt want to think about it, he said of the cuts. I was nervous at first. I was calling one of my (Falcons) teammates. He was trying to keep me calm. Video: NFL MVP Candidates 2013 Through the Falcons preseason games, it had become fairly obvious that Bartu and Worrilow were going to make the team. Bartu received reps with the first-team and Worrilow made tackles and big plays by the bunches. As Davis put it, those two beat out a veteran in Robert James, who was cut and signed by Baltimore to its active roster. Smith said four key injured players remain on track to play on Sunday in the season opener at New Orleans: Samuel (thigh), Bryant (back), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quad) and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle). The open question is whether Bartu will play over Nicholas if Nicholas is healthy enough to be active. If so, Bartu could draw as difficult of an assignment in his NFL debut as he might all season: covering Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Saints quarterback Drew Brees ranks among the leagues best and most experienced quarterbacks and always knows where to go with the ball. Im looking forward to it, Bartu said. Im looking to my first NFL game. I got a lot to prove as a rookie. Worrilow is somewhat like Schraeder in that he was a walk-on at Delaware. He said when he learned that he had made the team, he got on FaceTime with his family back home. His family had gathered with some guests and his father, who attended culinary school, cooked up a big meal for all to celebrate. I tried not to think about it but if it came down to it, I felt pretty good about it, Worrilow said. Just personally I know I didnt leave anything out (on the field). I didnt feel like I couldve played much better ... so from a personal standpoint I felt good about what I put out there. Those players have only made the first step. They proved they were good enough in the preseason. Now they have to prove it in the regular season, too.
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