The High-Major Haters
No NFL team would take a serious look at the third-string junior quarterback at Northern Iowa. Despite finally getting the start his senior year and having a great season, Warner still went undrafted. After some time playing Arena football and as a grocery store checker, Warner eventually found himself holding up the Super Bowl XXXIV trophy. There might not be a better underdog story in sports.
It is funny to think that in high school, Paul George was not even considered the best player on his own AAU team. Jrue Holiday had a much bigger name and game at the time. Luckily, Fresno State had the foresight to see that the 6-9 power forward could turn into a guard. It still was not until George got regular minutes, thanks to Danny Granger’s injury woes, that he truly blossomed and became an NBA superstar.
The Red Sox thought that the prospect from the University of Hartford in Connecticut would not mean much for their future. They needed to shore up their bullpen and at the time this and trading for Larry Andersen seemed like a smart move. Four years later, that small-school prospect ended up being the MLB MVP. It is fine though; the Sox have made a trade worse than that before.
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If someone had told you that Strahan was from Texas, you would assume he would have been rocking the burnt orange in college, right? Wrong. Instead, Strahan followed in his uncle’s footsteps and went to Texas Southern. It is safe to say coaches from the SEC at that time are still kicking themselves for letting that happen.
The “Age Like Fine Wine” Association
There is not much to this story. Johnson just plain could not get control over his pitches. After being fortunate enough to hold a few jobs until he was 28 years old, the Big Unit’s pitches became more precise. It was appropriate that the peak of his career was in Arizona, because he began to throw some serious heat.
Dufner was always a guy who was good, but by no means great. He was always a solid, quiet guy. It was not until he was 36 that he broke out and won the Masters. Next thing you know the lesser-known pro was on national television in celebration of getting to wear the green jacket.
Earlier in his life, Gattis found himself everywhere but a baseball field. He could be found in chilling in rehab, operating a ski lift, or even mopping floors. At one point, he was even contemplating suicide. Gattis eventually found his love for baseball again and became one of the MLB’s top rookies in 2013… at the age of 26.
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The Opportunist Organization
Sure, Brady went to a big-time football school. But for the majority of his career he did not even play. He always had the ideal quarterback size, which is what helped him get picked by the Patriots with the 199th pick. Once Drew Bledsoe went down with a mean concussion, Brady busted out and went on to become one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
This late bloomer story is so well known that there have even been books and movies made about it. Linsanity never would have happened if it weren’t for many hours in the library. After Harvard was one of the only schools going after Lin, he used that motivation to breakout when Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis went down with injuries for the Knicks. How crazy is it to think that Lin was sleeping on a friend’s couch at the time too?
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The Position Switch Posse
Albright is a late bloomer in a different sense than a lot of the guys on this list. He was a college All-American at Virginia. However, once he got to the MLS, he had a tough time finding the back of the net. The Los Angeles Galaxy experimented with him and eventually moved him to be a defender. That position worked out well for Albright as he went on to play for the USA National Team in 1999.
Josh Cribbs and Julian Edelman
These are two guys who were quarterbacks in college that went on to become receivers. In an age where football coaches love dual-threat quarterbacks, these two guys took it to the extreme. They were such a dual-threat that they turned into successful wide receivers in the NFL. Ironically, they both went to Kent State and were picked up way later than their value suggested.
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While it is fun to track the blue-chip Bryce Harpers and Andrew Wigginses of the sports world, not all professional athletes have the spotlight shining on them so bright. Some guys, for many reasons, are just late bloomers. It could be they needed more time for development. It could be that they never played for the right coach. It could even just be that they did not finish going through puberty as early as everyone else. There is nothing wrong with being a late bloomer. After all some of the finest star athletes in recent history have been late bloomers.
Here is a comprehensive list of some of the top late bloomers in recent sports history.
Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucashapiro