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Nick Ferguson took the long road to the NFL, and Wade Phillips gave him his first real shot

Nick Ferguson can relate to the struggles that UDFAs go through.

Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

Later this month, the Broncos will enter the NFL draft with ten selections. If Denver comes away with ten new players, they will have room to sign just four undrafted free agents following the draft.

That's a low number of UDFAs, but Denver has a strong history of finding UDFA gold.

At least one UDFA has made Denver's roster in each of the last 11 years, a streak that ranks third in the NFL. Among those players: All-Stars Chris Harris and C.J. Anderson.

Well before Denver's UDFA streak started, safety Nick Ferguson went undrafted out of Georgia Tech in 1996.

"The Bengals called me in the 6th round before they were set to pick and told me they were going to select me. They ended up taking a running back in the spot. I watched that draft alone with my younger brother and we both were deflated when my name wasn't called. Saying I was upset is an understatement," Ferguson said.

He went on to play in Canada and Europe before finding a landing a spot in the NFL.

"My journey to the NFL was a long and arduous road that most would refuse to take in order to accomplish their childhood dream. Two back-to-back tours in NFLE, training camp with Bears followed by another stint in the CFL — I landed in Buffalo under Wade Phillips. Coach Phillips gave my first real shot to become a mainstay in the league when he put me on the practice squad, where I remained for eight weeks. While on the practice squad Bill Parcels called and ask me to become a member of Gang Green."

Ferguson played three seasons with the Jets, dressing for 39 games and recording 48 tackles. In 2003, he landed in Denver and his career took a turn for the better. Ferguson played five seasons in Denver, starting in 44 games. His best season came in 2005 when he started in all 16 games, recording 79 tackles and five interceptions.

Ferguson played his final two seasons with the Texans from 2008-09. He played ten years in the NFL, and was invited camp by a UFL team in 2010 before he retired from football. Ferguson played 14 years of professional football, many more than the average undrafted free agent.

He beat the odds, but many UDFAs never get a chance to.

"The league has a built-in philosophy that uses height, weight, and speed as a means to measure talent and yet there's not a test to measure a players heart."

"It's harder for undrafted players opposed to drafted players because the common theme is that drafted players have proved they were more deserving based on their collegiate success. As history has shown, most of those highly touted players don't always duplicate the glory of their college playing days. Players that were once drafted continue to receive opportunity after opportunity despite their failure to live up to their draft status."

The UDFA road is never an easy one, but Ferguson said players should be grateful for a chance to play the game they love.

"Undrafted players should never take a day in the NFL for granted. It's an honor not a privilege to walk out on the field to showcase your talent in front of loyal football fans. Never allow yourself to be measured or constrained by normal league standards. Undrafted players are the backbone of the league and they to can become the next Rod Smith, Kurt Warner or Nick Ferguson, but it starts with the belief in yourself. Feed off the haters and naysayers.

"Most importantly, no matter how much success you achieve, never forget what it took to get to the mountain top."

Ferguson has stayed connected to football since hanging up his cleats. He participated in an NFL-sponsored broadcasting boot camp last summer and has worked with 94.1 Mile High Sports, VoiceAmerica Sports, and SkySportsUK. He is 40 years old.

Ferguson is active on Twitter and can be found at @NickFerguson_25.

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