He might not have been selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, but former Texas A&M football linebacker Claude George has what it takes to build a great NFL career.
Claude George began his college career at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He was named second-team All-American in 2014 where he finished that season with 69 tackles (14 for a loss), and 4.5 sacks in 12 games for the Blue Dragons. That performance earned George offers from some major programs including Arizona State, Miami, Washington and Texas A&M.
George didn’t see the field as much he might have hoped at Texas A&M. He played in a reserve role in two seasons with the Aggies. Despite the limited amount of opportunities, George still registered 74 tackles (13.5 for a loss), 3.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in 21 games.
That’s not the kind of production that typically earns you a high draft selection. When Chad Kelly, this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, heard his name called on the last day of the draft it became official the George would have to earn his NFL chance as an undrafted free agent. A few short hours after the NFL Draft ended, George announced via Twitter that he had been signed by the Seattle Seahawks. His chance had come.
While it might not be the route most would dream of taking, the NFL is filled with undrafted free agents. A draft selection does not guarantee success. That depends on opportunity, work ethic and talent. Claude George has all three of those things.
From Kansas to Texas to Washington it’s been a busy couple of years for the Lafayette, Louisiana native. Seattle, although a new stop in his journey, is home to four former Texas A&M players already: Germain Ifedi, Luke Joeckel, Michael Bennett and Steven Terrell. Several of these guys played alongside George in College Station.
There are only so many roster spots available on each NFL roster. The competition is going to be brutal, and George is facing an uphill battle from the start. Given those circumstances it doesn’t hurt to have some guys in the locker room that have your back.
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His path to the NFL hasn’t followed the storybook narrative of guys like Myles Garrett. Texas A&M’s first number one overall pick in school history was also a unanimous five star prospect coming out of high school. Everybody wanted to get Garrett on their campus. George was less sought after.
Out of high school George had one offer from a Power Five school, Arizona. After signing with Memphis, he elected to go the JUCO route. Following his success at that level he was a role player in the Texas A&M defense for two years.
Even then he wasn’t a starter. George split time behind underclassmen and fellow undrafted senior Shaan Washington. Nothing has been handed to George in his collegiate career. He’s had to grind for every opportunity he’s received.
Undrafted free agents tend to come in two veins: players with the measurables and talent that didn’t do enough to warrant a draft pick and players that have the drive to work harder than anyone else. George is talented, but he’s also proven himself to be a guy that’s going to grind and continuously work hard to improve. NFL teams will notice that.
George was quietly one of the better coverage linebackers in the SEC. In 2016 he did not miss a single tackle while in coverage. Not only was he able to stop pass-catchers who got to him, he kept the ball away from his coverage responsibility. Per Pro Football Focus, George ranked fourth in the SEC with .28 yards allowed per cover snap. His 35.5 cover snaps/reception were second best at his position in the conference.
For the most part, opposing offenses were kept at bay when George dropped back in coverage. Linebackers must do more than stop the run in today’s NFL. As the league continues to tend towards being quarterback-drive, the demand for players with skill sets like George will continue to increase. George isn’t a one dimensional defender. He finished 12th in the SEC with a 10.1 run stop grade and was 21st in the SEC in tackling efficiency.
***Pro Football Focus, 247 Sports, Sports Reference, 12thman.com***