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Draft Memories: How LB Troy Reeder made the most of being undrafted

No Senior Bowl invite? No problem.

No NFL Scouting Combine invite? No problem either.

Though he dealt with those hurdles and had a small-school background coming from FCS program Delaware, Rams linebacker Troy Reeder refused to let his circumstances dictate his path to a professional football career.

"You're optimistic, but you also have a plan if you don't get drafted," Reeder said. "I thought I had a really good plan going into that (final) day."

Having a realistic outlook while preparing for the draft also helped.

Even though Reeder felt like he had a strong senior season, he understood invites to two of the biggest events during the pre-draft process were out of his control. After getting passed on for both, he knew he had to put his best foot forward at his pro day.

"I felt like I had good tape, had a great pro day, tested as well as any linebacker in the class," Reeder said. "So it really was an awkward situation in that I really had no idea where I was going to go, if I was going to go. I had a wide range of ratings from teams."

Unfortunately, Reeder did not hear his name called during the 2019 NFL Draft. Thanks to that plan, though, he had a good idea of what teams would make the best fit for him.

"When you're in that range of potentially going as a free agent, there are certain things you need to look at and be realistic with yourself and your family," Reeder said. "Try and find a spot that, maybe there are 25 teams in the league that you could make, but what (team) is your highest percentage chance? For me, stuff that was tough going in was, you have to be very unbiased. College recruiting, it's easy to pick out a region or a conference that you want to play in, but the NFL is so competitive that you really need to throw everything you know out the door and just say, 'What's the best spot for me and the best chance for me to keep my dream alive and keep playing football?'"

For Reeder, the answer to that question was the Los Angeles Rams due to the rise of inside linebacker Cory Littleton.

Reeder first took notice of Cory Littleton during the 2019 NFL playoffs, and shortly after that, Littleton became one of the linebackers he studied leading up to the draft. After four productive seasons with the Rams, including a career-high 134 tackles to go with 3.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, nine passes defended and two interceptions in 2019, Littleton signed a lucrative three-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason.

Though they only played together for one season, Littleton is someone Reeder considered a role model during his first NFL season.

"He's a guy that just stood out to me," Reeder said. "I think everybody loves an underdog story and he wasn't a high-draft guy. He kind of made a name for himself starting on special teams and then carved out a role for himself on defense and just kind of kept things going and now he's put himself in a great position. A lot of good things to say about Cory."

Reeder signed with his top choice within 15-20 minutes of the draft concluding, becoming another example proving that getting drafted isn't the only path for a prospect to realize their professional dreams.

This year, however, the obstacles are even greater for players who might find themselves in his position. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of many pro days, further limiting exposure for those who did not get invited to a college all-star event or the combine.

Reeder empathizes with them, but also advises to make the most of their opportunity no matter how they get their start.

"I really don't think any of the vets or people care if you were drafted in the first round or undrafted," Reeder said. "They want guys that can help you win in any phase of the game. At the end of the day, if you want to be one of those 53 guys, that's what you have to do."

Sound guidance from someone who accomplished just that.

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