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7 49ers Who Didn't Receive NFL Combine Invites

Posted Feb 17, 2015

...and carved out careers for themselves anyway.

There is a "FAQ" section on the official website of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Halfway down the list of 16 questions a pro football hopeful might ask, this query:

If I am not selected to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, can I still be drafted?

Yes, but it makes being drafted – and/or making it onto a team in the league – a whole lot harder.

READ: How Current 49ers Performed in Past Combine Drills

At 49ers.com, we will be supplying coverage of the Indianapolis' happenings because the event is an important one. San Francisco will undoubtedly consider spending many of its draft picks on a portion of the 300-plus prospects who ran, jumped and lifted there.

That's not to say there is only one route to the 49ers. As evidence, consider these 7 players, who without invitations to the combine in their respective draft years, took a more circuitous – and perhaps rewarding – path to the NFL.

1. CB Tramaine Brock 

Out of tiny Belhaven College (now Belhaven University) in 2010, Brock was, as general manager Trent Baalke said this week, a "$500 free agent." NAIA (not NCAA) member Bellhaven, with its sub-5,000 enrollment, was actually Brock's third college stop; he attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College and the University of Minnesota. After three seasons working his way up the ranks in San Francisco, Brock replaced Tarell Brown in the starting lineup and scored a four-year contract extension in 2013. He recorded a team-high five interceptions and started a career-high seven times that season before injuries limited him in '14.

2. DT Tony Jerod-Eddie

An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2012, Jerod-Eddie "was pretty shocked" he wasn't picked in New York, as he told KNBR. "I had anywhere from 20 to 24, 25 teams calling me and my agent (after the draft)." After spending 15 games on the practice squad in 2012 and cracking the team's Opening Day roster in '13, he helped fill the void left by injured teammate Ian Williams. He was also a key cog in the defense line's rotation last season.

3. TE Garrett Celek

A reserve tight end at Michigan State, Celek came out of college without major production (14 catches in 38 games, 12 of them starts) but with a solid pedigree. The younger brother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek, he enjoyed the distinction of being the lone undrafted free agent to make the 49ers 2012 Opening Day roster; he was the fifth to do so in San Francisco since 2005. A back injury limited him for most of the 2014 campaign.

4. TE Derek Carrier

As a wide receiver at Division III Beloit College in Wisconsin, Carrier set school records for receptions (189), yards (3,111) and touchdowns (29). This output was enough for the Oakland Raiders to sign him after the draft before the Eagles stashed him on their practice squad for the duration of the 2012 season. Carrier played in five games for the 49ers in '13 and recorded his first NFL catches in '14 before ending the season on Injured Reserve.

5. LB Dan Skuta

Skuta attracted little attention coming from Grand Valley State, another small NAIA member school and the only one to offer him a scholarship. He did enough there, however, that the Cincinnati Bengals signed him to a free agent contract in 2009. Skuta started four games in four seasons for the Bengals before coming to San Francisco before the 2013 campaign. He started eight times for the 49ers in his debut season. A memorable moment: Skuta recovered a Patrick Willis-forced fumble in London and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

6. LB Michael Wilhoite

After six years at Washburn College, a Division II school in Kansas, where he overcame multiple injuries and starred at safety, Wilhoite learned the linebacker position in the United Football League. Wilhoite then spent parts of the 2011 and '12 seasons on the 49ers practice squad. A stud in extended playing time during the '13 preseason, Wilhoite made his first NFL start and played in a career-high 16 games. He filled when Willis was injured in '14 and did the same in NaVorro Bowman's stead last season.

7. S Bubba Ventrone

As a smallish safety coming out of Villanova University in 2004, Ventrone billed himself as a special teamer from the start. At a tick below 5 feet, 10 inches in height, he's stuck around thanks, in part, to Brad Seely. Admiring Ventrone's effort and execution, the 49ers ex-special teams coach helped bring Ventrone to the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns and the 49ers in 2013.

Others include:

CB Kenneth Acker, TE Asante Cleveland, DB Marcus Cromartie, S L.J. McCray, DT Mike Purcell, RB Alfonso Smith, RB Phillip Tanner, C Dillon Farrell, G Fouimalo Fonoti, CB Cameron Fuller

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