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10 49ers Who Didn't Receive NFL Combine Invites

Posted Feb 26, 2014

...and carved out careers for themselves anyway.

There is a "FAQ" section on the official website of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Halfway down the list of 16 questions a pro football hopeful might ask, this query:

If I am not selected to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, can I still be drafted?

Yes, but it makes being drafted – and/or making it onto a team in the league – a whole lot harder.

READ: How Current 49ers Performed in Past Combine Drills

At 49ers.com, we have been supplying coverage of the Indianapolis' happenings because it is very important. San Francisco will undoubtedly consider spending many of its draft picks on a portion of the 300-plus prospects who ran, jumped and lifted at the showcase event.

That's not to say there is only one route to the 49ers. As evidence, consider these 10 players, who without invitations to the combine in their respective draft years, took a more circuitous – and perhaps rewarding – path to the NFL.

1. CB Tramaine Brock 

Out of tiny Belhaven College (now Belhaven University) in 2010, Brock was, as general manager Trent Baalke said this week, a "$500 free agent." NAIA (not NCAA) member Bellhaven, with its sub-5,000 enrollment, was actually Brock's third college stop; he attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College and the University of Minnesota. After three seasons working his way up the ranks in San Francisco, Brock replaced Tarell Brown in the starting lineup and scored a four-year contract extension. He recorded a team-high five interceptions and started a career-high seven times.

2. DT Tony Jerod-Eddie

An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2012, Jerod-Eddie "was pretty shocked" he wasn't picked in New York, as he told KNBR. "I had anywhere from 20 to 24, 25 teams calling me and my agent (after the draft)." After spending 15 games on the practice squad in 2012 and cracking the team's Opening Day roster in '13, he helped fill the void left by injured teammate Ian Williams. One season highlight: Jerod-Eddie, who has worked himself up to 301 pounds, recorded the first interception by a San Francisco defensive lineman in three years.

3. TE Garrett Celek

A reserve tight end at Michigan State, Celek came out of college without major production (14 catches in 38 games, 12 of them starts) but with a solid pedigree. The younger brother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek, he enjoyed the distinction of being the lone undrafted free agent to make the 49ers 2012 Opening Day roster; he was the fifth to do so in San Francisco since 2005.

4. FB Will Tukuafu

After one season playing at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and three playing defensive end at the University of Oregon to little fanfare among league general managers, Tukuafu signed as an undrafted free agent defensive tackle in 2011. Most recently, he re-joined the team in 2013 as a fullback, filling in for the injured Bruce Miller.

5. TE Derek Carrier

As a wide receiver at Division III Beloit College in Wisconsin, Carrier set school records for receptions (189), yards (3,111) and touchdowns (29). This output was enough for the Oakland Raiders to sign him after the draft before the Eagles stashed him on their practice squad for the duration of the 2012 season. While he's yet to record his first NFL catch, Carrier played in five games for the 49ers this past season and enters the offseason with a good chance to compete come summer.

6. LB Dan Skuta

Skuta attracted little attention coming from Grand Valley State, another small NAIA member school and the only one to offer him a scholarship. He did enough there, however, that the Cincinnati Bengals signed him to a free agent contract in 2009. Skuta started four games in four seasons for the Bengals before coming to San Francisco last offseason. He started eight times for the 49ers. A memorable moment: Skuta recovered a Patrick Willis-forced fumble in London and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

7. G Ryan Seymour

A Seattle Seahawks practice squad player to begin his NFL career, Seymour was the 220th player taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. The offensive guard played every position along the Vanderbilt University line in 44 games (35 starts) spread over four seasons. San Francisco signed him last December, although he's yet to be active on gameday.

8. CB Darryl Morris

Morris' NFL career may have sprung, in part anyway, from his Texas State pro day this time last year. The 5-foot-10 cornerback ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, which would have represented the fastest mark among cornerbacks at the 2013 combine. Morris, who was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in time for Week 4, made news on special teams in his rookie season, most notably looking like "an arrow through snow" when he forced a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown at Tennessee.

9. LB Michael Wilhoite

After six years at Washburn College, a Division II school in Kansas, where he overcame multiple injuries and starred at safety, Wilhoite learned the linebacker position in the United Football League. Wilhoite then spent parts of the 2011 and '12 seasons on the 49ers practice squad. A stud in extended playing time during the '13 preseason, Wilhoite made his first NFL start and played in a career-high 16 games. He filled when Willis was injured this season and may have to do the same in NaVorro Bowman's stead next season.

10. S Bubba Ventrone

As a smallish safety coming out of Villanova University in 2004, Ventrone billed himself as a special teamer from the start. At a tick below 5 feet, 10 inches in height, he's stuck around thanks, in part, to Brad Seely. Admiring Ventrone's effort and execution, the 49ers special teams coach helped bring Ventrone to the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns and, after last offseason, the 49ers. For his efforts in 2013, which included a key fumble recovery at New Orleans, Ventrone was named Jim Harbaugh's special teams Blue Collar Player of the Year. Funny, he has the speed and strength to excel in combine drills like the 40-yard dash and in the bench press.