Name: Damion Square
NFL games played: 27
Games played for the Chargers: 17
Fun fact: Square won three National Championships whilst in College with Alabama.
(Before we get into Damion Square, Ross Tucker had him as a guest on his podcast earlier in January, and it's a really good listen. If you have a spare 20 minutes, you can check that out here. If not, here are some choice quotes from it.)
'First of all, seeing more Chargers jerseys than Broncos jerseys in the stands is better for us. Second of all, powder blue is nicer than Orange.'
'I really love the game, it just happens to be a job of mine. I'm always excited to go out there and play football. A lot of the time I still feel like I'm in the park.'
'I think the guy [Bosa] will be one of the greatest to ever play the game. I'm calling it early.' One of the best rookies I've ever seen walk into the building.'
Damion Square had a career year in 2016, starting seven games after Brandon Mebane went down and racking up 2.5 sacks, 31 tackles (6 for loss) and 10 pressures. Stats never tell the whole story - especially with linemen - but Square filled in admirably as a starter at a time many were worried the DL would completely collapse without Mebane there to clog the middle.
Whilst probably not a long-term starter in the NFL, Square is an excellent rotational player to have, and the Chargers proved they felt the same way this offseason, inking Square to a two-year, $4 million deal. That's a good payday for a backup - and considering that Square should statistically have been out the NFL a long time ago, it's almost remarkable.
Despite an excellent career doing the dirty work at Alabama, Square went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft - which already made his chances of even making a team difficult. Square signed as a UDFA with the Philadelphia Eagles, and appeared in 10 games in his rookie year, but was cut at the end of Training Camp in 2014. The Kansas City Chiefs signed Square to their active roster, but he was released two months later without ever appearing in a game. The Chargers claimed him off waivers, and while Square stayed on the active roster he was inactive most weeks and didn't appear in a game for the Chargers that year.
Square headed into Training Camp with the Chargers in 2015 as a 26-year-old former UDFA who hadn't played a down of football in more than a year. I'm not a gambling man, but those odds on making the roster can't have been good. And he didn't - at least, initially. Square was waived at the end of preseason but placed on the Practice Squad (being PSed as a 26-year-old seems surprising to me, but Square is proof that it can work), and was signed to the main roster in November 2015. He'd play 155 snaps that season, appearing in six games and doing a solid job as part of the defensive line rotation.
At the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Chargers re-signed Square to a 1 year, $725,000 deal with just $50,000 guaranteed - meaning that he had virtually zero job security. He'd have to fight if he wanted to keep his place on the team. But once again Square wouldn't be a part of the opening day roster. This time, however, he hadn't been cut. He'd been suspended.
Square missed a drug test - according to an article in the SDUT, he was summoned to a test in Texas when he was in Alabama - and was suspended for the first four games of the season. When back from suspension, Square would slowly ease his way back into the rotation, but when Brandon Mebane was placed on IR after tearing his biceps in Week 10, Square was pressed into his first ever proper starting gig, and that first start of the season came against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. You could call it a coincidence that the game happened to be against the Texans - or you could call it destiny. Square had grown up just a seven-minute bike ride away from NRG Stadium.
Well, kind of. NRG Stadium hadn't actually been built then - but that suited Square just fine. He and his friends would hop a fence to get into the area, and they'd play football. Square had been in elementary school then. Two decades later, Square was returning there for his first proper NFL start, a moment that marked the culmination of a lifetime of hard work and dedication in attempting to turn his dreams into reality.
Square had gone from the little kid we all once were, throwing a ball around in an empty parking lot, to a legitimate starter in the NFL. The journey hadn't been a smooth process, and it had taken him all across America as he chased his dream. But, for Square, his reality was made complete in the exact same spot where that dream had first been sparked all those years ago.
That's pretty damn awesome.