In a distinct way, the story of former Texas Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat has come full circle.
Out of high school, he was recruited heavily by USC Trojans head coach Pete Carroll and assistant coach Ken Norton Jr.
Out of Texas, he was recruited heavily by Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and assistant coach Ken Norton Jr.
A little bit of symmetry for Jeffcoat, who would have much preferred not to have any type of recruitment following the NFL Draft, in which he expected to go in the first round and was widely expected to come off the board in the middle rounds.
Instead, every team in the NFL passed on him.
Jeffcoat overcame a number of serious injuries in his career to post 60 tackles for loss (second in school history), earn unanimous All-America honors, win the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award, and take home the Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, not exactly the profile of an undrafted free agent. Not the profile of any previous Hendricks Award winner, either -- all the previous recipients had gone in the fourth round or higher, with only three going lower than the first round.
Besides the connections dating back to high school in the Metroplex, Jeffcoat seems like a strong fit for the Seahawks not only because of the team's defensive success, but because of how much success Carroll and the front-office have had finding players under appreciated by other teams and turning them into NFL contributors. That list includes other undrafted free agents like Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, both of whom caught touchdown passes in the Super Bowl this year.
The huge change for Jeffcoat now is that while he was always expected to become a college star with his five-star rating out of high school and NFL pedigree following his father's lengthy and successful career with the Dallas Cowboys, he's now in a battle just to make Carroll's roster in the Pacific Northwest, having reportedly received only a $15,000 signing bonus.
In one sense, Jeffcoat has always known what it took to make it to the NFL, but after receiving so many accolades in high school the role as the underdog, as the under appreciated, overlooked player will be a new one for him, one that has resulted in what Jeffcoat told the Dallas Morning News is not just a chip on his shoulder, but a boulder.
So when Norton called the prospective NFL rush end after the draft with his stories about what it takes to play defense for the Seahawks and told him about the success stories there, it seemed like a strong match from the start:
"When Coach Norton called me after the draft, I was mad and he could tell," Jeffcoat said. "I think he liked that because this team likes players with a chip on their shoulder. I felt I should have been a first-rounder coming out. They told me they had undrafted guys come here and do well. That excited me.
"Then Coach Carroll told me they'd love to have me come out here and compete because I fit their scheme."
The strength of the Seahawks defensive coaching staff and the collective drive of so many of those players who have been motivated by their own snubs could be a huge benefit for Jeffcoat if he can channel it all:
"That's what was enticing about Seattle," Jeffcoat said. "They see that chip you have and poke at it - and keep poking at it to make it grow in a positive way. It becomes motivation to become better than you ever thought you could be."
For a guy who has some physical gains to make that were arrested because of injuries and having spent his football off seasons in high school playing basketball, the extra motivation should help him answer those questions that every team passing on him in the drafts put into stark light.
So perhaps there's still some athleticism and certainly quite a bit of strength that can still be tapped out of that frame for Jeffcoat if he can stay healthy, even though he posted some excellent testing numbers at the NFL Draft Combine.
Despite the pedigree, the area where he might have to improve the most besides with his strength is in his technique, developing a go-to pass-rushing move, which he didn't have in college.
Making the roster is hardly a guarantee for Jeffcoat, but if he can, he has a chance to become a rare story -- a high school star turned college star turned undrafted free agent
One thing seems for certain -- Jeffcoat is as motivated as he ever has been and is currently surrounded by the most motivated people he's ever worked with, guys who understand exactly what's driving him right now:
"It worked out better for me not being drafted," Jeffcoat said. "I could choose the place I wanted to go. This is a good spot for me. I'm happy the way it all worked out.
Happy, just not satisfied. Far from satisfied because there's too much work to do to be satisfied.