Mike Strange: Tyler Bray can look to Warner, Moon, Romo for inspiration

Mike Strange
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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While Tyler Bray might be crushed at being ignored by the draft, his dream of playing in the NFL shouldn’t be.

Not yet.

The NFL is filled with stories of undrafted free agents beating the odds, winning jobs and, in some cases, becoming stars.

I wonder if Bray, the talented but not universally embraced quarterback who left Tennessee after his junior year, has gotten a chin-up call from Arian Foster yet.

Like Bray, Foster produced impressive stats at UT — he left as No. 2 all-time in rushing yards — but went undrafted in 2009. He signed as a free agent with Houston and has played in the Pro Bowl the past three seasons.

Fine, but isn’t it harder for a quarterback to make it as a free agent?

Fair question, and I thought the answer would be yes. On further review, I’m not so sure it is.

Anybody heard of Kurt Warner or Warren Moon?

Both eventually became stars of the highest order. The key word is eventually.

Warner first had to labor in the Arena Football League. Moon had to prove himself for six years in Canada.

Would Bray have the perseverance to polish his craft in the minor leagues? That can’t be answered yet.

Warner and Moon are the best known free-agent quarterback success stories, but far from the only ones.

Jeff Garcia made the jump from Canada to the NFL and played in four Pro Bowls.

Dave Krieg played 19 years and passed for 38,000 yards. In a previous era, Jim Hart was a fixture for the St. Louis Cardinals. He played 19 years and went to four Pro Bowls.

Jim Zorn was once the NFC offensive rookie of the year in Seattle. Jake Delhomme went from a practice squad and NFL Europe to quarterbacking the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl.

Then there’s Tony Romo. He signed with Dallas after nobody drafted him, hung around a couple of years and snatched the starting job.

Bray would certainly be thrilled to follow Romo’s example. He has signed with Kansas City and has a fighting chance to stick as the third quarterback. And it’s not as if Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are ahead of him on the Chiefs’ depth chart. Try Alex Smith and Chase Daniel.

But if Bray doesn’t make it, he’ll hardly be the first Vol QB to seek employment in the real world. You’ll never hear Tennessee described as “Quarterback U” when it comes to the NFL.

There’s Manning and not much else.

It’s a curious deal. By and large, UT has had very good quarterback play over the years. It hasn’t, for whatever reasons, translated to the NFL.

Pat Ryan and Bobby Scott, 1970s era Vols, enjoyed long NFL careers, primarily as backups. Between them, they accumulated 22 years, but only 33 starts. It’s good work if you can get it, though.

Heath Shuler struggled through four injury-riddled years. Dewey Warren played one year. Tee Martin appeared in three games, Jeff Francis one.

Erik Ainge’s try with the Jets never got off the ground. Jonathan Crompton has bounced around practice squads. Matt Simms has been cut once by the Jets but is trying again.

Andy Kelly became an Arena icon. Condredge Holloway became a Canadian icon. Alan Cockrell played baseball. Tony Robinson went to jail. Casey Clausen went into business.

Now it’s Bray’s turn. Granted, he’s starting in a hole.

But history shows that if he has the right stuff, he can dig out of it.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

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Comments » 41

cltvol writes:

and the great John Constantine Unitas was technically drafted in the 9th round, cut befor playing a down (coach thought him too dumb), but then caught on with Colts the next year. Hang in and gut it out TB. You can make it!

6972 writes:

Wonder how Vegas would rate those odds? Slim and none? I hope it is better than that. I always am glad when an orange man makes the big time.

beartn#223846 writes:

For all the Bray bashers, it will reflect better on our program if he makes it. Unfortunately for Bray, his career was being a good player on a bad team.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Bray better look to Andy Reid and grovel to him like he's freakin' Jabba the Hut..

orangehippi writes:

I believe he brought all of this on his self!Also a bad coach and some receivers with the droptheballitis,did'nt help him either.

ivyvol writes:

He'll get one year to make an honest effort to improve his approach to the game and drop the phooey about being too cool for you. If he does and shows improvement, he might have a chance at a career. If not, we can color him gone at the end of a year. I hope he can get it done.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to orangehippi:

I believe he brought all of this on his self!Also a bad coach and some receivers with the droptheballitis,did'nt help him either.

"his self?"

Though it's true there were some inopportune drops, it's also hard to say his receivers didn't help him. With Patterson in the first round, Hunter at the #2 spot in the second round, and Rivera also picked, it isn't like he didn't have anybody good to throw it to.

volforeverandever writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dream on.

lyafarre writes:

Maybe this will be the experience that lights his fire and makes him realize that ability, alone, isn't enough.
Tyler had what amounts to a three year job interview, and he would now be several million dollars richer had he just focused on putting forth more effort and making more mature decisions. Now, he gets to fight the uphill battle of being an undrafted free agent with a negative reputation. I hope he makes it and proves me wrong, but so far he hasn't shown that he has the drive and intestinal fortitude to do so.

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

Bray reminds me of the dog that ran over the clift . The Indian said , Dog gone .

eVOLved writes:

Crompton was drafted in the 5th round, btw. Bray is a great quarterback, and I expect to see him starting within the next couple years. It would be hard to ignore him zipping the ball around in practice. How can they not give him the ball?

laraccoon writes:

i about lost my coffee when i read that zinger "Tony Robinson went to jail"

voloffaith writes:

in response to laraccoon:

i about lost my coffee when i read that zinger "Tony Robinson went to jail"

Strange touch wasn't it?

CrankE writes:

Moon won a Rose Bowl with Washington.
Warner was the conference offensive player of the year at Northern Iowa.
Garcia earned UPI all-america honors in 1992 at San Jose State.
Delhomme led ULL to two conference championships.
Romo was a 3 time All-America at Eastern Illinois (I-AA).
Holloway went 25-9-2 and led Tennessee to 3 bowls.
Jeff Francis led UT to a bowl win.
Andy Kelly led UT to back to back SEC titles.
Robinson was part of the 1985 Sugar Vols as well as the Redskins’ replacement team in 1987.
Clausen led UT to two wins at Florida and an SEC Championship game appearance.

Sure, Bray COULD go on and be one of those guys who makes it in the NFL. But what has he accomplished on the field to demonstrate that this is possible-much less likely? There is nothing to see here, please move on.

dcap8424 writes:

I really look to Tony Romo for inspiration... said no quarterback ever.

coach75 writes:

You forgot Todd Helton, who in my opinion would have been a good qb but elected to become a MLB all-star.I hope this serves as a wake up call for young Mr. Bray.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Drafted 6th round or FA it doesn't matter..You still have to prove it in summer camp and preseason games..Key for Bray is a good showing in preseason games which can be tough to do even for a veteran.. As a boy Bobby Scott and Bobby Majors were my idols.The 1970-71-and 72 Vols will always be my favorites..Majors;Scott and the Crossville Comet were followed by Holloway and Haskell Stanback..Great memories of Bobby Majors career game against Air Force in the Sugar Bowl..Also 1972 first night game beating Penn State glued to the radio hanging on Wards every word..Great times as a boy growing up in a nothing TN farm town as John Ward thrilled me with "Give him Six"

bUTch_please writes:

As a Vol fan this is the best wake-up call of all time...for Brays' ex-teamates. They are busting their hump RIGHT NOW in that weight room over on the hill. They will be spending the summer days throwing/running routes, learning protections and spending summer nights watching hours of film. Thanks Tyler, for motivating our team with your departure far more than you ever did with your presence. Good luck at KC.

Go team #117.

jhncpps1 writes:

in response to dcap8424:

I really look to Tony Romo for inspiration... said no quarterback ever.

Since Romo took over the starting job in Dallas in 2006 he has completed 65% of his passes for over 25000 yards, 177 TDs, and a QB rating of 95.6

I'd say that's pretty decent for an undrafted free agent QB.

BrassMonkey writes:

Tyler Bray threw a party after he was not drafted. It broke out a windshield, was intercepted, and then returned for a touchdown.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

Rip Bray if you want, but Gator fans were nervous playing UT the last two years because we knew Bray could go nuts at any time and throw a bunch of TD passes and beat us, like he almost did against Georgia last year. Not worried at all this year.

Pompey writes:

....I have little patience with those who are gifted and do nothing to build on their gifts. Bray has gotten by with poor game preparation until now. Not being drafted should be a sobering experience for Bray and we will see how he responds....the piper awaits to be paid....!

John_10065 writes:

in response to cltvol:

and the great John Constantine Unitas was technically drafted in the 9th round, cut befor playing a down (coach thought him too dumb), but then caught on with Colts the next year. Hang in and gut it out TB. You can make it!

The difference was when he got drafted to Pittsburg he never got to play a down in the training camp warming the bench behind three other QB coming out of Louisville who was a doormat to everyone including UT.

Yep, Johnny U. played against UT. The legend is that he was so exhausted at the end of the game that they had to cut his uniform off him because he couldn't raise his arms from exhaustion. He had 86% of U of L tackles, returned 6 kick offs, punted, rushed, passed and scored the only score for Louisville on a 28 yard QB keeper. It was said that even Neyland applauded him when he left the game in the 4th quarter after an injury.

I certainly hope the Unitas movie that is in production does him justice. From the time he was a boy until his death it was an incredible story.

Bray couldn't carry Unitas' jockstrap.

jcalhoun4 writes:

Tyler Bray has no business being mentioned in league with the other three guys, especially the first two. Warren Moon had to face the times when the NFL was not as friendly to black quarterbacks, so he went to Canada and worked his butt off to make it into the NFL. Kurt Warner faced the fact that he was raw, but when the Packers cut him they told him he had enormous potential if he just fine-tuned his skills, which he did in the Arena league. No coaches ever questioned the work ethic or mental make-up of either of these players, which are the only two factors holding back Tyler Bray.

There is no excuse for us to have to question the effort of somebody with a chance to make millions playing a game. Executives saw what could become of that with Jamarcus Russell and are not willing to take that chance again.

Tyler Bray dug his own grave with his laziness. Warren Moon and Kurt Warner were just never given the chance to prove themselves.

Sir_Spanky writes:

The NFL's a big-boy business. When you write extremely large checks, you manage risk as best you can.

atnvol#283282 writes:

All of the former Vols of days gone by that Strange referenced in regards to the NFL were pretty intelligent people....that is the difference.

bigdisbig writes:

Going from hero to zero in the draft couldn't happen to a more deserving punk. Grow up Bray. You might be able to throw newspapers for KNS but you sure can't throw a football.

volforeverandever writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Russell could read a basic defense ,Bray can't (Gruden proved that).Russell could run and run over you(Bray ran like a wounded duck and couldn't run over me).Last most everyone on this site has been better than you.You call yourself the truth squad and when you are wrong you won't admit it.You make things up and dream things and are hardly right.You are good for one thing and that is comic relief.Bray in the first round that was a good one.

vol98champ writes:

Since so much of this exchange is about intelligence; I wonder about the grades of all these early leavers . Does anyone know what they scored on the NFL tests? Are we in any trouble of loosing scholarships because of grades?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

"his self?"

Though it's true there were some inopportune drops, it's also hard to say his receivers didn't help him. With Patterson in the first round, Hunter at the #2 spot in the second round, and Rivera also picked, it isn't like he didn't have anybody good to throw it to.

I get what you're saying, but if Patterson hadn't ad-libbed so many routes and if Hunter hadn't come up with a serious case of the "short-arms", they would have been even more successful, as would Bray. But of course, it takes at least two to make a good passing game, and in support of your point, I would say that if Bray had looked at Rivera a bit more often, not only might Rivera have been drafted higher, it might have gone some way toward dispelling the notion that Bray didn't make best use of all the weapons he did have.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bUTch_please:

As a Vol fan this is the best wake-up call of all time...for Brays' ex-teamates. They are busting their hump RIGHT NOW in that weight room over on the hill. They will be spending the summer days throwing/running routes, learning protections and spending summer nights watching hours of film. Thanks Tyler, for motivating our team with your departure far more than you ever did with your presence. Good luck at KC.

Go team #117.

Good point. It is said that average people can only learn from their OWN mistakes, but truly intelligent people can learn from OTHER people's mistakes. Let's hope the current Vols fall into that latter category. Far too many athletes these days are accustomed to seeing themselves as more talented than they really are, which too often leaves them incapable of learning from their own mistakes, or even recognizing them at the time they are making them.

knoxknothead writes:

in response to cltvol:

and the great John Constantine Unitas was technically drafted in the 9th round, cut befor playing a down (coach thought him too dumb), but then caught on with Colts the next year. Hang in and gut it out TB. You can make it!

he will make it when he starts acting like a man instead of a spoiled punk

volforeverandever writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Uh yea there doofus that was the point.Russell ain't in the league and he was way better than Bray.Which would be why Bray wasn't drafted.He couldn't carry Russell's jock strap.( He wouldn't know where to go with it and he would throw it to the stands.) You are still pretty funny,Bray in the first round ha ha ha.

DougKnight314 writes:

This quote in the Columbus Dispatch proves why he isn't bright enough to make it. In the NFL they are all physically gifted. It's embarrassing to even hear someone compare this brain drain to the successful QBs of the NFL.

“A lot of the top guys in this draft are from the SEC, so I’ve been facing all those great draft prospects. I don’t feel it’s going to be a big jump to the NFL.”
The Columbus Dispatch
Monday April 29, 2013

Its time to get over the Bray-mance. He was a physically gifted head case.

He never EVER faced a formidable SEC foe (he should send Sims a Christmas Card JUST because Sims facing all the heavy hitters got Bray a cup of coffee in the NFL). His win over Cincinnati that powerhouse from the Big East was (to my recollection) his only win over a bowl team - unless Montana or Buffalo made a bowl that I don't remember.

For him to have the chunks to say that he was (even remotely) "successful" against the SEC and thus should have a small jump to the NFL is just laughable.

And if that is not enough...Google his horrendous and hideous "B R A Y" tattoo that should be an embarrassment to all fans of UT.

cltvol writes:

in response to John_10065:

The difference was when he got drafted to Pittsburg he never got to play a down in the training camp warming the bench behind three other QB coming out of Louisville who was a doormat to everyone including UT.

Yep, Johnny U. played against UT. The legend is that he was so exhausted at the end of the game that they had to cut his uniform off him because he couldn't raise his arms from exhaustion. He had 86% of U of L tackles, returned 6 kick offs, punted, rushed, passed and scored the only score for Louisville on a 28 yard QB keeper. It was said that even Neyland applauded him when he left the game in the 4th quarter after an injury.

I certainly hope the Unitas movie that is in production does him justice. From the time he was a boy until his death it was an incredible story.

Bray couldn't carry Unitas' jockstrap.

concur to all,,and I'm aware of the history. There are no other johnny U's, just would like to see TB raise his standards and work his tail off and it sure wouldn't hurt him or anyhone else to look as # 19 as inspiration w/out being beat down by the amateur, blow-hard self-appointed experts that seem to get a special thrill turning the screw over his current situation.

volforeverandever writes:

in response to Johnny_Aint_No_Del_Shofner:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Now there is a great comment coming from someone questioning a persons sanity who has made many mult -millions and owns one of the richest sport franchises in the country.My gut tells me to trust Jerry over what you think on this one.

Teresa writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

Going from hero to zero in the draft couldn't happen to a more deserving punk. Grow up Bray. You might be able to throw newspapers for KNS but you sure can't throw a football.

I think his problem is running an offense & reading a defense. No one, no scouts covering the draft said he can't throw. They said he was the best at that. It's the mental part where he has to work (hard). So be fair here. He's also barely 21, much younger than some others in the draft.

Teresa writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Since so much of this exchange is about intelligence; I wonder about the grades of all these early leavers . Does anyone know what they scored on the NFL tests? Are we in any trouble of loosing scholarships because of grades?

We need to up the teams GPA for sure. Butch is doing that. A lot of the scores were leaked. Bray was middle of the pack on QB's. About 4 points, I believe, behind Barkley. Hunter (surprising to me) & Patterson didn't do so well.

People should take that test in 12 minutes. It's not that easy, especially with the pressure of knowing you're not sitting at home & it will be private. Peyton didn't score all that high which was a shocker. So I think nerves etc,
play a part. I think I'd just skip the harder ones & try to finish most of the 50.

ancientvolfan2 writes:

Commenting on UT not be known for QB's in the NFL, one can ask is Florida? Obvious that college play and pro play for quarterbacks are not closely tied together.

antonio14313 writes:

in response to DougKnight314:

This quote in the Columbus Dispatch proves why he isn't bright enough to make it. In the NFL they are all physically gifted. It's embarrassing to even hear someone compare this brain drain to the successful QBs of the NFL.

“A lot of the top guys in this draft are from the SEC, so I’ve been facing all those great draft prospects. I don’t feel it’s going to be a big jump to the NFL.”
The Columbus Dispatch
Monday April 29, 2013

Its time to get over the Bray-mance. He was a physically gifted head case.

He never EVER faced a formidable SEC foe (he should send Sims a Christmas Card JUST because Sims facing all the heavy hitters got Bray a cup of coffee in the NFL). His win over Cincinnati that powerhouse from the Big East was (to my recollection) his only win over a bowl team - unless Montana or Buffalo made a bowl that I don't remember.

For him to have the chunks to say that he was (even remotely) "successful" against the SEC and thus should have a small jump to the NFL is just laughable.

And if that is not enough...Google his horrendous and hideous "B R A Y" tattoo that should be an embarrassment to all fans of UT.

"bray-mance". lol. clever. and, i might have a touch of this, but it's only because he did wear a UT uniform, so, by fault, i root for his success. he does have a great arm, but he's not smart, when it comes to reading defenses (the gruden show KILLED him). tallented guy. just not football smart.

his tattoo on his back reminds me of vince young. young has the same type tattoo. kinda the same type situation too: both are basically begging to get into the league.

hopefully bray becomes successful tho. chances are against him tho. go vols.

t

murrayvol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Bray better look to Andy Reid and grovel to him like he's freakin' Jabba the Hut..

And he'd better have the playbook under his arm every time he sees him.

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