How To Get Into The NFL Without College

Last Updated on October 31, 2023 by Alex PT

To get into the NFL without college, you must be three years removed from high school and declare for the NFL draft. You can then attend the NFL Regional Combine and National Combine to showcase your skills to NFL scouts. If you impress the scouts, you may be drafted by an NFL team.

How To Get Into The NFL Without College

Getting into the NFL without attending college is challenging but possible for a select few. Here’s a detailed overview of the paths available:

  1. High School Standouts:
    • Exceptional high school football players can potentially make the jump to the NFL directly from high school. However, this is extremely rare and becoming increasingly uncommon due to rule changes.
  2. Three Years Out of High School:
    • The NFL’s eligibility rule requires players to be three years removed from high school graduation before they can declare for the NFL Draft. This means players must wait a few years after high school.
  3. Declare for the NFL Draft:
    • Eligible players must declare their intent to enter the NFL Draft. They can do this by submitting the necessary paperwork and making their intentions known to the NFL.
  4. Preparation:
    • While waiting, aspiring NFL players should use the time to train, develop their skills, and maintain peak physical condition. This often involves working with private coaches or training facilities.
  5. Pro Days and Workouts:
    • Players who didn’t attend college may not have the exposure or game experience of college athletes. To compensate, they can participate in regional combines, NFL Pro Days, and individual workouts to showcase their talents.
  6. Agents and Scouts:
    • It’s crucial to secure representation by a sports agent who can help navigate the process, connect with NFL scouts, and market the player’s skills to teams.
  7. Independent Leagues:
    • Some players opt to play in independent or semi-professional football leagues like the XFL or The Spring League to gain additional experience and visibility.
  8. Tryout Invitations:
    • Successful candidates may receive invitations to NFL team tryouts or rookie minicamps. These provide opportunities to demonstrate their abilities directly to NFL coaches and scouts.
  9. Performance is Key:
    • To make an NFL roster, players must excel in tryouts, impress during preseason games, and outperform established players.
  10. Persistence:
    • The path to the NFL without college is challenging, and many aspiring players do not succeed. Perseverance, dedication, and relentless effort are essential.
  11. Long Odds:
    • It’s crucial to understand that the odds of making the NFL without a college background are exceedingly slim. Most successful NFL players have college experience.

How to Be Eligible to Get Into the NFL

Getting into the National Football League (NFL) demands more than just a raw passion for the game. It requires discipline, determination, robust skills, and a meticulous understanding of the game.

Here’s a listicle guide on how to enhance your eligibility to get into the NFL.

1. Start Young and Master the Fundamentals

Understanding and mastering the fundamentals or basics of American football is essential. This includes passing, catching, blocking, and tackling. The player must start young as it offers more time to learn and cultivate the skills required.

2. High School Involvement

Actively participate in high school football programs. This provides the foundation for understanding the game better, improving football skills, and gaining significant experience.

3. College Football Participation

One must get involved in a college football program. The NFL primarily recruits from university and college football programs, making it a surefire platform for exposure.

4. Maintain High Performance

NFL scouts look for consistent, strong performance. A high-performing player in the college league has a better chance of being spotted by NFL scouts. Therefore, strive to be a top performer.

5. Attend Combines and Pro Days

To increase their chances of landing an NFL contract, players should participate in combines and Pro days. These events offer prospects a chance to demonstrate their skills to NFL scouts and coaches.

6. Maintain Physical Fitness

Maintaining prime physical fitness is requisite for anyone dreaming of getting into the NFL. Regular workout routines, along with an appropriate diet, help maintain the ideal weight and fitness level.

7. Develop Mental Toughness

Mental toughness and strength count as much as physical capabilities. The pressure associated with the game requires immense mental fortitude.

8. Networking

Networking with people in the field can expose many opportunities. Building relationships with coaches, players, scouts, and agents can help gain a lot of insight and possibilities.

9. Keep a Clean Track Record

Maintaining a clean track record, both off and on the field, is a strict requirement. The NFL scrutinizes all players to ensure that team images are not tarnished.

10. Persistence

In the journey to the NFL, there may be setbacks. But the display of resilience and unwavering commitment can eventually pave the way.

How Hard Is It To Get Drafted in NFL?

It is very hard to get drafted in the NFL. Only about 250 players are drafted each year, and there are thousands of players who are eligible for the draft. This means that the odds of being drafted are very slim.

There are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of being drafted. First, you need to be a very good football player. You need to have the physical skills, athletic ability, and football IQ to play at the NFL level. Second, you need to be exposed to NFL scouts. You can do this by playing in college football or by attending the NFL Regional Combine and National Combine. Third, you need to impress the scouts with your performance. You need to show them that you have the skills and the drive to succeed in the NFL.

Even if you do all of these things, there is still no guarantee that you will be drafted. The NFL draft is a very competitive event, and there are many factors that go into each team’s decision-making process. However, if you are a talented football player and you work hard, you will give yourself a chance to be drafted and play in the NFL.

Here are some statistics that illustrate how difficult it is to get drafted in the NFL:

  • Only about 6% of high school football players qualify for college football.
  • Of those who qualify for college football, only about 1.6% are drafted into the NFL.
  • This means that the odds of a high school football player being drafted into the NFL are about 0.1%.

Of course, these statistics are just averages. There are always a few players each year who are drafted despite not playing college football, and there are also a few players each year who are not drafted despite having successful college careers. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to draft a player is up to the individual NFL teams.

What Happens With the Undrafted Players?

Undrafted players in the NFL face several potential outcomes, depending on their skills, determination, and circumstances:

  1. Signing with an NFL Team:
    • Some undrafted players are signed as free agents by NFL teams immediately after the NFL Draft. They attend rookie minicamps and training camps to compete for roster spots.
  2. Practice Squad:
    • Players who don’t make the final roster may be offered a spot on the team’s practice squad. Practice squad players attend practices, help prepare the starting roster, and can be activated during the season if needed.
  3. Tryouts with Other Teams:
    • If not signed by the team that initially gave them a chance, undrafted players can try out with other NFL teams during the season or offseason.
  4. Canadian Football League (CFL):
    • Some undrafted players opt to play in the CFL to continue their professional football careers. Success in the CFL can lead to a return to the NFL.
  5. XFL or Other Leagues:
    • Leagues like the XFL, AAF, and The Spring League offer opportunities for undrafted players to gain experience and showcase their skills. Success in these leagues can catch the NFL’s attention.
  6. Independent Leagues:
    • Undrafted players may choose to play in semi-professional or independent leagues to maintain their football skills and visibility.
  7. Practice and Training Facilities:
    • Some players continue training and stay ready for potential NFL opportunities by working at training facilities or under the guidance of private coaches.
  8. Career Transitions:
    • Many undrafted players eventually transition to other careers or pursue further education if they don’t secure an NFL opportunity. The NFL Players Association offers programs to assist players in post-football transitions.
  9. Short NFL Stints:
    • Some undrafted players briefly make NFL rosters but may not have long careers. Their NFL experience can open doors for coaching, scouting, or other roles in the football industry.
  10. Returning to College:
    • A few undrafted players decide to return to college, playing out their remaining eligibility or focusing on academics.

Does NFL Have Open Tryouts?

The NFL does not typically hold open tryouts in the same way that lower-level leagues or semi-professional teams might. However, there are specific opportunities for players to showcase their talents and potentially earn a spot on an NFL roster:

  1. Regional Combines: The NFL hosts a series of regional combines in various locations around the United States. These events are open to aspiring players who meet certain eligibility criteria. While not as high-profile as the NFL Scouting Combine, they offer participants the chance to be evaluated by NFL scouts.
  2. Super Regional Combine: Players who perform well at the regional combines may receive invitations to the Super Regional Combine, where they have another opportunity to impress NFL scouts.
  3. Pro Days: College and university programs hold pro days, which are essentially workouts and evaluations for their draft-eligible players. These events are attended by NFL scouts, and undrafted players can sometimes secure invitations to pro days at colleges in their area.
  4. Team Tryouts: NFL teams often invite undrafted free agents to try out for their roster during rookie minicamps or training camps. These invitations are usually extended to players who have already caught the team’s attention through scouting or other means.
  5. Agent Connections: Sports agents play a crucial role in helping undrafted players secure opportunities. Agents have connections with NFL teams and can arrange tryouts or workouts for their clients.
  6. Open Tryouts for Other Leagues: While not the NFL, other professional football leagues like the XFL, CFL, or independent leagues may hold open tryouts for aspiring players. Success in these leagues can serve as a stepping stone to the NFL.


We’ve come to the end of this blog post. We hope you’re now familiar with how you can make it into the NFL without college football.


Leave a Comment