Joe Dudek: 5,570 Yards and 79 Touchdowns, but NFL Still Doesn’t Call His Number
It was midnight when Joe Dudek finally gave up and went to bed. Flowers, balloons and high hopes had filled his parents’ home in suburban Quincy. Relatives and friends had come for a celebration. In the end, they were there for consolation.
“I had the champagne waiting and never got a chance to open it up,” Dudek said. “It hurt.”
Only two players in college football history--Tony Dorsett and Charles White--have run for more than Dudek’s 5,570 yards. No player has scored more than his 79 touchdowns. But Tuesday, the day the small-college back would make it big, not a single NFL team wanted him.
“I thought I’d get drafted in the middle rounds,” he said. “It was really bad.”
For his four years at Plymouth (N.H.) State, Dudek was just a Division III running back whose fame didn’t spread much beyond the state’s borders. Then he was discovered. Sports Illustrated put him on the cover last December and touted him for the Heisman Trophy. He even finished ninth in the voting.
“I loved it,” Dudek said. “It put me on a high I’ve never had. Now, I’m as low as I can get.”
Scouts were skeptical of his speed, size, strength and lack of collegiate competition. He hadn’t caught many passes or blocked very much. Yet, he had produced, and they predicted he would be drafted between the fourth and 10th rounds.
The blow to his ego hurts, but Dudek is happy that he wasn’t drafted in the last three or four rounds. Now he can choose among several teams that have expressed interest in him as a free agent.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I get back to school is hit the weights,” Dudek said. “It just got me mad. Any training camp I go into, I’m going to be one angry football player. I want to prove them all wrong.”