For all 32 NFL teams, there are players who sometimes sneak up on a fan base. No, this wouldn’t include a drafted player, but a player who is signed during rookie minicamp, or an undrafted rookie free agent (UDFA).
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, a great example would be none other than slot cornerback Mike Hilton.
Hilton was picked up as an UDFA by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was released, signed by the New England Patriots, released only to get a shot at a futures contract with the Steelers. Hilton was one of those players you read being signed and fans comment, “Just another camp body.” But what happened was Hilton was a player who did nothing but make plays from the moment he stepped onto the football field. He turned that success into success on the field as the Steelers’ starting slot cornerback.
Players like Hilton might be rare in today’s NFL, but it shows they do exist. There are players who don’t get selected during the draft, or are maybe on their second and third team, and still make a roster and prove to be a player on a week-in and week-out basis.
It makes you wonder if UDFA Dravon Askew-Henry is the next player to make waves for the Steelers in 2019.
Askew-Henry is a local product from Aliquippa and attended West Virginia University, but where he comes from is far from all he brings to the Steelers. His versatility is something he hangs his hat on, and feels it separates him from others just trying to make the 53-man roster.
“I’m versatile. I am gonna do whatever I got to do to make the team win,” Askew-Henry told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“You got to cover. You’ve got to [be] willing to go out there on an island, come in the box to tackle, and I feel like I can do all of that.”
After being a highly sought after recruit leaving Pennsylvania in 2014, Askew-Henry believes his ability not only to play multiple positions, but to adapt and learn could help him make the Steelers’ roster, even if it just as a special teams player.
“I’m a quick learner,” he said after a rookie mini-camp session last week. “… Anything you throw at me, I’m going to conquer it.”
Askew-Henry is by trade a safety, but his flexibility to play multiple positions is something he hopes gives him the edge against players like Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield and P.J. Locke for a spot on the team’s depth chart. As for the competition, Askew-Henry welcomes it...
“I’m always for the competition,” Askew-Henry said. “I feel like I did good (at rookie minicamp), but I still got stuff I got to improve on. I have to get into the playbook, studying, getting to know the plays, getting to know my teammates. I can keep learning. That’s one thing about me: I’m coachable, so I come in here every day ready to learn something new.”
He might have an uphill climb, but if history has shown us anything it is any player can make the Steelers’ roster. Drafted or not...just ask Mike Hilton.