Among this year’s crop of Notre Dame alumni hoping to hear their names called in last month’s NFL Draft were center Braxston Cave, offensive guard Mike Golic Jr., wide receiver John Goodman and running back Cierre Wood. The quartet did break into the professional ranks via free agency, with Cave inking a deal with Cleveland, Golic Jr. landing in Pittsburgh, Goodman signing with Cincinnati and Wood reaching an agreement with Houston.
Running back Cierre Wood went undrafted last month, but hopes to make an impact in Houston.
Now it’s a matter of what they do with their respective opportunities that will ultimately decide how long they’ll remain employed at the highest level of the sport. And it got us thinking: Which former Fighting Irish players to go undrafted had the most successful careers in the NFL? Which ones went one and done? Which had potential but where derailed by injury?
In part one of our series, we examine 1990-99 — a decade window that included eight undrafted free agents to log time in the NFL:
1990 — Safety Pat Eilers played two seasons for the Minnesota Vikings (1990-91), suited up for the Washington Redskins the next three years and spent the 1995 campaign with the Chicago Bears. He appeared in 61 career games without a start, registering 34 total tackles and seven fumble recoveries. In 1991, he returned five kickoffs for 99 yards (19.8 average).
1993 — Linebacker Karmeeleyah McGill, a defensive end at Notre Dame, lasted four games with the Cincinnati Bengals and did not register a tackle. He spent the 1995 and part of the 1996 seasons with the Amsterdam Admirals of the World League of American Football, where he recorded one sack, and finished the 1996 campaign with the Scottish Claymores.
1994 — Linebacker and special teams stalwart Brian Ratigan played in 14 games for the Indianapolis Colts and is credited by Yahoo! Sports with 17 tackles. He had six surgeries while at Notre Dame and Indianapolis, cutting his career short. Ironically, he’s now the go-to orthopedic surgeon for the Fighting Irish.
1995 — Defensive end Junior Bryant started 43 games for the San Francisco 49ers, where he spent his entire career, from 1995-2000. He compiled 13.5 career sacks before a neck injury against the St. Louis Rams in 2000 ended his time in the NFL.
Floridian Oscar McBride chose the warmth of Arizona via free agency and became the Cardinals’ starting tight end by the fourth game of the season. McBride spent two seasons in Arizona and started 11 games (10 his rookie year) and had 13 career receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns (all as a rookie). He signed with Kansas City in January 1997, but was released in the days before the season opener.
1997 — Linebacker Lyron Cobbins played in six games for the Arizona Cardinals and did not register a tackle.
Running back Randy Kinder split his only year in the league between Philadelphia and Green Bay. He never got an opportunity to carry the ball.
1999 — Running back Robert Farmer returned four kickoffs for 84 yards and forced a fumble in 13 special teams appearances for the New York Jets.