Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 5/16/12
ALLEN PARK, Mich. - NFL teams are loaded this time of the year with undrafted free agents hoping to catch a break. There's definite untapped talent in some cases, but for whatever reason, they weren't taken in the NFL draft. Maybe an injury held them back in college. Other times, academic problems or off-the-field issues are part of the explanation. But they arrive to the NFL, dreaming of being the next Kurt Warner, James Harrison or John Randle - players who weren't worthy of a draft pick but still went on to have impressive pro careers. Most, of course, become nothing more than bodies during training camps to help the real pros prepare for the season. One advantage to not getting drafted is that these guys can try to find the right fit for them, a team that has a glaring need at their position. The majority of them feel they've been snubbed and come in with a little extra something to prove. Take defensive back Alonzo Lawrence, who was signed recently by the Detroit Lions and participated in the team's rookie mini-camp last weekend. Coming out of high school, Lawrence was the No. 2-cornerback in the nation, according to Rivals.com, and part of Alabama's top-ranked recruiting class in 2008. It's a class that included the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Mark Barron, Marcel Dareus, Don'ta Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. Not surprisingly, the Crimson Tide went on to win national championships during the 2009 and 2011 seasons. Lawrence showed he could play with the best when he shut down Jones in a high-school all-star game. But Lawrence never got to celebrate those national titles. He took what he describes as the "dirt road" instead, transferring first to Southern Mississippi and then to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. "Sometimes I do, but sometimes I don't," Lawrence said when asked how much he regrets leaving Alabama. "By leaving, it made me grow up. To go down and then to come back up, it made me grow up a lot." Lawrence (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) is being converted from cornerback to safety by the Lions, who are in need of considerable help to improve a weak secondary. Lawrence is training with the veteran players this week during conditioning drills and will take part in the club's OTA workouts next week. "He's big, he's got real good speed," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's got some physical skills that we can work with." Exactly what went wrong for Lawrence at Alabama depends on whose side of the story you believe. According to GulfLive.com, Alabama coach Nick Saban at the time listed Lawrence among four players who "violated some type of team rule or policy and were not invited back on our team." Lawrence has a different version. "Coach Saban put it like he threw me off the team for violating a rule," Lawrence said. "It really was that I just kind of left cause me and him didn't get along. "There were some guys that got suspended for failing a drug test. My name was in the paper with theirs. It made me seem like I got suspended for a drug test. I never smoked before." Lawrence said, in reality, he was annoyed by his immediate lack of playing time and decided to go elsewhere. He had been redshirted during his first year in 2008 and wasn't on the first-team during the next spring practice, either. So he left in the summer of '09. "I was young," Lawrence said. "I was recruited as the No. 2 corner in the nation out of high school. I thought I was supposed to be playing. He (Saban) thought I wasn't ready. So we just didn't see eye to eye. "I got real impatient. Just being young and seeing the guy in front of you that you thought you were better than, I was impatient." Despite his differences with Saban, Lawrence said his experience at Alabama was still valuable to him. "It made me a better player," Lawrence said. "I learned a lot from coach Saban (a former defensive-backs coach). He's one of the best coaches in the nation. He made it easy when I transferred to my other school to play that position." Lawrence said Saban wouldn't release him to transfer to Mississippi, another Southeastern Conference school, but did allow him to go to Southern Mississippi in Conference USA. Lawrence spent a year at Southern Miss, having to sit out the '09 season because of NCAA transfer rules. "I wasn't playing, wasn't paying attention to football, failed a couple classes," Lawrence said. And so he transferred again, this time to a junior college. Lawrence started both years at Mississippi Gulf Coast, including being named a junior-college All-American in 2011. Not exactly the way it was planned for him when he signed a letter of intent as a four-star recruit coming out of George County High in Lucedale, Miss. "I look back to (Alabama's) national championships, all the fun they had, I just took a dirt road," Lawrence said. "But I think it's all going to pay off now."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cubs close door on Sammy Sosa reunion after bizarre comments

Rick Pitino restrained from going after North Carolina fan

76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, pick

Budapest drops 2024 Olympic bid, leaving only Los Angeles and Paris, which could ban some participants

DeMarcus Cousins was ‘praying’ for a better supporting cast with Sacramento

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Nets trading Bojan Bogdanovic to Wizards

Elliott spoke with police after 'best friend' caught with gun

Jets reportedly believe Jay Cutler can compete in AFC East

Report: 'Melo could waive no-trade clause for Clippers after season

Rivers: Paul medically cleared to play, could return Thursday

Trea Turner missed part of Nats camp Wedneday for jury duty

The top 10 MLB third basemen heading into spring training

The Aesthetic: Pushing the boundaries of the three-pointer

NBA coaches who should be fired soon

Box Score 2/22: Not everyone is happy with the new intentional walk rule

Teams and players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

Box Score 2/21: It's trade heartbreak season

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The top 10 MLB third basemen heading into spring training

The Aesthetic: Pushing the boundaries of the three-pointer

NBA coaches who should be fired soon

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win the MVP award

Teams, players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker