Name: Mitchell Paige
NFL games played: 0
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: Mitchell Paige wasn't given a contract by the Chargers originally, but earned one after impressing as a trialist in minicamp.
Mitchell Paige wasn't supposed to make it this far.
Paige had led the entire state of Indiana in punt and kick return yardage while in High School, as well as being a star receiver (and sometimes Quarterback). He was also the starting Point Guard on the school's State Championship basketball team and lettered in basketball, track and field and golf. But he hadn't been given a scholarship from any D1 schools. His athletic ability didn't make up for a lack of size. Wanting to compete at as high a level as possible, however, Paige decided to study for a telecommunications degree and attempt to walk onto the Indiana football team.
While at Indiana, Paige loved to go to local elementary schools and help out in various ways, including helping the children with reading and sometimes giving inspirational talks to them. Paige says that he remembered the amazing feeling he had when players would come and speak to him as a child, and he wanted to return the favor. "If I can impact one kid who may not be the biggest, may not be the strongest, who may not be the fastest, but has something different in [his heart]..."
"Don't give up. Anything is possible. I'm living proof of that."
See, the Indiana coaching staff weren't exactly impressed at the sight of the 5’7 Paige, who at that time weighed maybe 150 lbs. If he had a couple of bricks in his pocket. And was soaking wet. And the scales started off at 20. The coaches thought that, at best, he'd be a 'leg saver' - a guy who comes in and runs some routes in preseason to keep the real players fresh.
Paige turned out to be a good scout team player, but that's not a fun job. Sure, you're getting to play football (even if it is just in practice), but your sole job is to help other people get ready to do the job you dream of having. You've got a similar schedule to somebody actually on the team - all of the grueling practices, just without any of the fun of gameday. Most scout team players give it up in their first year. Almost all of them give it up in their second year. Paige thought about walking more than once, but he stuck with it, never missing a practice, and he got his reward in 2015 (his third year) when Indiana's starting slot receiver went down with a serious knee injury in preseason.
Paige took the chance that he'd spent three years waiting for, with 57 receptions for 684 yards and a team-leading 6 TDs, as well as returning 2 punts for TDs. The former walk-on was a 'leg saver' no more, and put up similar numbers in his senior season in 2016 - after he'd been given a scholarship for the 2016 season. Paige had finally made it.
Well, sort of. He wasn't good enough to get drafted. He wasn't even good enough to get a contract as an UDFA. The best offer Paige got was to join the Chargers for a try-out, along with about 20 others. Tryout players have an incredibly small chance of making a 90 man roster - not only were they not good enough to be drafted, but no team saw them as good enough to even make them a priority free agent. These are the guys who are thought of less highly than an UDFA who gets a signing bonus of $50.
Still, being wanted as a tryout player was still an improvement on college, where he wasn't wanted at all. So off Paige went to join the Chargers with minicamp. And, just like he'd done so often before, Paige made it to the other side, impressing the Chargers enough to earn an actual contract. There's no guaranteed money, but Paige doesn't need it.
He was the kid that was always too small, the kid that was never going to be good enough. But his hard work and determination eventually got him noticed by Indiana. It eventually got him noticed by NFL scouts. And, even though it didn't immediately translate to a contract, it eventually got him noticed by an NFL team, where Paige now has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong once again.
Don’t give up. Anything is possible.
Paige is living proof of that.