Commentary

NFL draft-day slights can haunt

Players jilted on draft day can seethe for years against teams like Cowboys

Updated: October 13, 2010, 9:31 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Miles Austin said he doesn't play with a chip on his shoulder because he equates that to playing angry.

It doesn't bother him that 32 teams bypassed him or that only two teams were interested in drafting him: the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans. He ended up signing as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in 2006.

Randy Moss, on the other hand, is still a little upset.

In 1998, Moss was hoping the Cowboys would draft him in the first round. So when they instead selected Greg Ellis with the eighth pick of the draft, Moss was fueled by the slight.

Moss, who is playing for the Minnesota Vikings for the second time in his career, meets the Cowboys on Sunday at the Metrodome, where both teams are playing for their seasons with a 1-3 record.

The stats say Moss should gain another win over the Cowboys because he's 7-0 lifetime against them.

"Am I still mad at the Cowboys?" Moss said during a Wednesday conference call with reporters. "Man, I always carry a certain chip on my shoulder for the Cowboys. Not as much [now], but I'm still ready to play some football. In a certain sense, yes, but you let bygones be bygones. But at the same time, I've still got that chip."

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he begged for Moss' forgiveness for not drafting him. The wide receiver accepted the apology, but he still burns inside.

"It's a little added motivation," he said. "I don't really try to go out there and disrespect the Dallas Cowboys organization or say anything negative about Jerry Jones and what he's accomplished there. But I think as far as playing within the white lines, within the rules, I still take it to heart."

Moss isn't alone in thinking about teams that passed him by.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
Paul Buck/AFP/Getty ImagesThe look on his mother's face when the Cowboys passed him over in the draft has fueled Randy Moss, right, ever since.

Titans running back Chris Johnson anticipated his meeting with the Cowboys last week. Johnson was the fifth running back, No. 24 overall, taken in the 2008 draft. When it came time for the Cowboys to draft, they decided Felix Jones was a better selection over Rashard Mendenhall with the 22nd pick of the draft.

Coach Wade Phillips liked Johnson's speed and ability to make people miss, but for what the Cowboys wanted to do, Jones was a better pick to complement Marion Barber.

Last Sunday, Jones rushed 15 times for 109 yards with no touchdowns. Johnson? He had 131 yards rushing on 19 carries and two touchdowns, including the game winner in the fourth quarter.

"Any time I play a team that took another one of the running backs over me, I play with a chip on my shoulder," Johnson said. "I really wanted to play in Dallas, but they took Felix."

Several Cowboys players also remember teams that went in another draft direction. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh was a fifth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005. He tried to remember who remains in the NFL from that Jaguars draft class.

Guard Khalif Barnes, a second-round pick who now plays for the Oakland Raiders, is the only holdover.

Jason Witten said he can understand why other players use fallen draft status as motivation. In 2003, Witten was the fourth tight end taken.

"When you first get drafted, there's a grudge," Witten said. "You always feel like you have to prove something. I think really good players, that's their mindset anyway."

Moss remembers the day the Cowboys let him go by as if it were last night. Or an hour ago. There were off-the-field issues with Moss that concerned not only the Cowboys but other teams. The Cowboys were in a similar situation this past spring when they selected Dez Bryant, who also had off-the-field concerns.

But unlike Bryant, whom the Cowboys chose with the 24th pick of the first round, Moss was left on the board dangling.

"So when they didn't pick me, I was kind of more depressed because [my mom] was more depressed, and I took that to heart," Moss said. "That my mom didn't really care too much about the Boys and just seeing her facial expression and how she looked, I really took that to heart, man, and I told myself anytime I play the Dallas Cowboys, I'm never going to forget that look."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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