Vidal Hazelton has a dream that many of us have shared over the course of our lives: To play in the NFL.
He was on track to do so, certainly, joining USC as a wide receiver in 2006. Given the big names who have at least landed in the NFL—some, like Mike Williams, sans impact for many years—it seemed likely that the talented Hazelton would join them. But it was not to be. The death of his grandfather, a crowded USC depth chart, a transfer to Cincinnati and a torn ACL basically erased his college career.
Hazelton might just be another story of a washed-out wide receiver. After all, the NCAA is filled with those. But it's the journey, the competitive fire and the team he wants to play for—wonderfully chronicled by ESPN's Pat Yasinskas—that make this story worth knowing.
No one's expecting Hazelton to shoot up draft boards. He hasn't even been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, so his chances of making a huge impression are almost certainly shot. If he's drafted at all, it'll be a minor miracle, even if his Cincinnati pro day goes beautifully.
But Hazelton has a real shot to catch on as an undrafted free agent. He's listed at 6'2", 210 pounds and has reportedly has a nice mix of size, speed and route-running acumen, even if he hasn't gotten much of a chance to display it. As a developmental receiver, teams could certainly do worse than the 23-year-old.
For all that, though, it's what he's instructed his agent to do at the combine that ultimately makes him someone to root for.
"Get my name in front of the Falcons," Hazelton said. "Remind them that I’m out there. That would be a dream scenario to end up with the Falcons. They’re the team I always rooted for growing up."
If you can read that and not root for this kid to end up in Atlanta....well, I don't know what to tell you. Good luck, Vidal.