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The8th Round_final

The journey to NFL success doesn't stop after going undrafted.

Several Pro Football Hall of Famers came into the league as undrafted free agents, including quarterback Kurt Warner, defensive tackle John Randle, linebacker Sam Mills and the late Raiders legend Willie Brown. With all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft coming and going last weekend, the Raiders will turn their attention to signing UDFAs who could potentially impact their team.

In 2022, four undrafted rookies made the Raiders 53-man roster, including cornerback Sam Webb and linebacker Luke Masterson, who ultimately carved out invaluable roles for themselves by the end of the season.'s Levi Edwards tells the story of how these two men made the most of their opportunity of being taken in "The 8th Round."

"I’m going to keep that chip on my shoulder"

A couple of days before the NFL Scouting Combine, Sam Webb patiently awaited his invitation only to realize, he'd already received it.

The Missouri Western State cornerback started picking up some notoriety after his junior season. NFL scouts didn't care he was an Division II player in a small Missouri town. He was a 6-foot-1, nearly 200-pound player with NFL traits and length.

Webb, hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, also didn't care about the reputation that came from going to the smaller D-II school, considering the Griffons' track record of getting players to the next level.

"In the back of my head it was always a possibility," Webb said of potentially entering the NFL. "The reason I even picked that school is because three guys had just left to go to the league, so I knew there were eyes on the school.

"But my junior year is when I started getting calls from agents and people started doing their homework. I kind of realized it was all coming full circle."

Webb received a Combine invitation after his junior season, however the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in his plans. He decided to return for his senior season in 2021, posting six pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

After playing in the East-West Shrine Bowl, he was training in Florida waiting anxiously for another Combine invite to come his way when he received a call from an unknown number.

"It was getting toward the deadline and he never heard from them and we just kind of took it as, 'Hey, it wasn't going to happen this time around,'" said Justin Richter, Webb's defensive backs coach at Missouri Western. "Well, it turned out they had been emailing him his invitation to an email he wasn't checking anymore. And finally at the last second, on the last day to confirm you're going to the Combine, this lady calls him and says, 'Hey is this Sam Webb? Are you going to accept this Combine invite?'"

"I was just waiting for that call," recalled Webb. "They somehow got my number and they said, 'You only have so many days left to accept your invite' and I was like, 'I didn't even know I got an invite.' She said, 'We sent it to this email' and I was like, 'Damn, I don't even use that email at all.' I don't even know the password. After that, she sent my invite to my actual email. I had already been getting prepared for it so I was ready."

Webb was one of two Division II players to receive an invitation to the 2022 NFL Combine. In Indianapolis, he recorded a 4.48 40-yard dash and totaled 14 reps on bench press. Despite his successful pre-draft showing, he knew going undrafted was still a reality.

He spoke with several teams throughout the draft process, but said the Raiders seemed to show the most interest in his abilities of any team. While still knowing he could potentially be drafted by another squad, he already made the decision in his mind to sign with the Silver and Black if he went undrafted.

After seven rounds and no calls, Webb signed his UDFA deal with Las Vegas. Rookie minicamp was his first chance to prove he could compete at the next level.

"It was like restarting all over again," Webb said. "When I got here, I was just trying to follow and see what is supposed to be done and what is expected of me. Because it's different coming from a college where I was an older guy. I had seniority [in college], and it was just way different. Now I'm at the bottom of the totem pole."

"I think the Raiders organization had a lot of patience with me coming in, understanding where I came from. But for me, it was just adjusting to the pro life."

Webb labeled Duron Harmon and Maxx Crosby as teammates who helped him adjust to the pros. Making plays throughout Training Camp and preseason was the perfect opportunity for him to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff. After four preseason games, he was tied as the team's leader in solo tackles (13) and pass deflections (two).

After making the 53-man roster, the realization of being an NFL player didn't quite don on him until he walked up to his locker before his first NFL game against the Los Angeles Chargers in SoFi Stadium.

"Seeing my jersey on the pads with my last name and my number, that I've always worn. … It was my most emotional moment."

As an undrafted rookie, Webb played in all 17 games in 2022 which included three starts at cornerback. He finished the season with 26 solo tackles, three pass deflections and a forced fumble.

"To see one of your guys go out there and live out his dream, I'm incredibly proud of the young man – his story, his journey and what he was able to do," Richter said.

"His overall personality and mindset: He's a guy that's going to come in, understand his role and do the things he needs to do and just be the quintessential professional. … He got his opportunity and I think he seized every last bit of that and set himself up to be a pro."

Despite the trials and tribulations he overcame, Webb recognizes he's far from a finished product. Going into his second season, he's putting a lot of pressure on himself to take his game to another level.

"People don't look at me and say, 'Oh Sam went to whatever school.' They look at me and say, 'Oh you're 6-foot-1 and play corner in the league?' So to me, yeah I'm going to keep that chip on my shoulder but that's just natural. Especially coming from where I came from. And to me, I'm only getting better.

"I'm very grateful and thankful for the Raiders giving me as much patience as they did and letting me grow. Not a lot of teams are going to be patient with you and give you all that time to grow. For me, year two is big. Consistency is going to be the main thing."

"I’ve never been that nervous for a football game"

Luke Masterson had only one year of experience at linebacker before entering the league.

The Naples, Florida, native committed to Wake Forest University to play free safety, his primary position over five years as a Demon Deacon. He eventually became the team's starter at that position – compiling 88 solo tackles, six tackles for loss and a sack going into the 2021 season. It was a hectic ride for Masterson up to that point – a redshirt freshman year, fighting multiple injuries and enduring a global pandemic amid it all.

The NFL dream almost came to an end after playing four games in 2020. Nevertheless, his coaches threw together a last ditch effort to keep their starting safety in Winston Salem for one last season. The pitch also included playing a different position.

"I played a little bit of linebacker throughout my career, here and there, filling in for guys who got hurt," Masterson said. "I really felt comfortable there and thought that would be my shot. If I was going to go to the league, playing linebacker had a lot of potential, and I was going to take a shot at that.

"Spring ball was really the time where I tried to learn as much as I possibly could because I knew when camp came around, and obviously once the season came around, I needed to know what I was doing. I put in a lot of time that spring with the other linebackers and my coaches to really put myself in a place where I was comfortable going into camp."

He enjoyed the best season of his college career playing linebacker, playing all 14 games and setting career-highs in tackles (85), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (2.5). The Demon Deacons finished the season with an 11-3 record and a Gator Bowl victory, their first double-digit win season since 2006. Halfway through the season, the NFL buzz started to creep into Masterson's ears.

Following the end of the 2021 season, Masterson began his pre-draft process with a trip to the Hula Bowl in Orlando, Florida. He had an impressive showing there, taking home his team's Defensive MVP. He also posted a 4.65 40-yard dash with 17 bench reps at his Pro Day. Nevertheless, he still knew it would be a hard hill to climb to being picked up in the draft.

"The year I was going into the draft was kind of unique, I think, because there was a double amount of draft eligible guys because of the COVID year and a lot of guys taking that. Obviously that wasn't great statistically in my favor. Also knowing I only played linebacker for a year, I knew realistically I might be a late-round draft guy.

"But my agent and I talked a lot about the possibility of going undrafted and how that would work out and what teams would be the best fit for me if that was the case. We put a plan together for if that happened, what our plan of action would be."

The plan of action resulted in Masterson signing with the Las Vegas Raiders the week following the 2022 NFL Draft.

He arrived to the desert at the same time as first-year linebackers coach Antonio Pierce, a former Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants. He describes Pierce's coaching techniques as unorthodox, but extremely beneficial coming from someone who's had success playing professionally. Additionally, he credited the starting linebacking corps for helping him through the early process of navigating through the NFL.

Like he did his sixth year at Wake Forest, he took the offseason and preseason with the utmost seriousness. He totaled 11 solo tackles, a pass deflection and an interception on Pro Bowler Mac Jones in the preseason – promptly making some noise with Raider Nation and the coaching staff.

"I think what he's really embraced more anything else has been – I call it the commander in front of the defense – leading those guys," Pierce said about Masterson during the preseason. "I thought what he did the other night was really impressive. He was a very active kid in the game, right away. He was throwing his body around, talking about being physical. I thought he was physical, using his hands. He did a pretty good job tackling, only one missed tackle for him. Just that constant improvement."

Fast-forward a year after transitioning from safety to linebacker, he was one of four undrafted players to make the initial 53-man roster. His official NFL debut in SoFi Stadium was a moment he'll always remember.

"I don't think I was ever that nervous for a football game in my life," Masterson said with a chuckle. "I distinctly remember lining up on kickoff and I've never been that nervous for a football game. And I remember taking a look around during the National Anthem and Mathias [Farley] was there, and I remember him telling me to take a good look around because not a lot of people get to experience that moment."

"And I think that was the moment where it definitely all soaked in, and then you have to snap out of it real quick and go play football."

As the season progressed, Masterson's play also progressed – with his name being called in a handful of situations late in the season. While playing all 17 games on special teams, he also started 7 games at inside linebacker. He totaled 59 total tackles, four tackles for loss and a quarterback hit.

Now going into his second season, Masterson is back in Las Vegas after recharging with his friends and family back home in Florida. With his rookie season under his belt, he's feeling more confident in himself to play free and tap into the next level of his game.

"Once you exhaust everything that you do throughout the week, once you know in your heart you've done everything you can to prepare and you've put in all the work – there's really not much else to do than go play loose and have some fun.

"That's one of the biggest things I've learned and I've tried to take in going into year two – there's no substitute for hard work throughout the week. You've got to put in the time, you got to put in the film. But once it comes time to play, you got to have fun and enjoy it because at the end of the day, it's still a game. Go enjoy it."

View photos of current players on the Raiders' roster who began their careers as undrafted free agents.

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