A lot of hopeful rookies have overcome many hardships to earn a crack at an NFL roster over the past couple of weeks, either through the draft or as undrafted free agents.
I'm sure there are a lot of rough stories out there. There probably aren't many rougher than the story of Bill Noethlich, though.
Judd Zulgad of StarTribune.com tells the story of Noethlich, a 6-7, 308-pound offensive lineman who just signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikings. He went undrafted but was invited to try out at the Vikings rookie camp. He ended up walking away with a contract.
That's the happy ending. Now let's rewind eight years.
Noethlich is 15 years old. That's when his mother died as the result of a car accident.
Depression set in for the youngster. His grades dropped. But then he sat down and had a heart-to-heart with his grandfather, who convinced him to lift himself up and try to become a football player. That's when his grandfather died.
Bill went on to college, though, and his father remarried. The new family built a house together, and they all moved in. That's when the family house burned down.
Bill continued on at college, though, studying and playing football. And that's when his sister Jennifer went into a diabetic coma, and she died.
And if triumphing over nearly unending sadness isn't enough for you, how about an underdog story on top of it? Noethlich played college ball at Southwest Minnesota State, a D2 school, after playing at a high school where the football they play nine-on-nine. I didn't even know that existed.
I'm not entirely sure how nine-on-nine football works, but I'm pretty sure that if you end up at a high school where the football is nine-on-nine, the odds of you making the NFL are pretty long.
Back to the happy ending, though. Again, via StarTribune.com:
"There was just so much emotion after having something great happen to me," said Noethlich, 23. "I was hugging my parents and holding them as much as I could and enjoying this great moment, because we've had a few bad ones, that's for sure."
Said Bill's father, Dan: "You have no idea how proud we are of that kid. I don't know if you can put into words how proud you can be as a parent of somebody who has carried themselves to this level."
It would be phenomenal to see Noethlich go on to make the Vikings final roster, but that he's even come this far is downright awe-inspiring. Best of luck to him, and that entire family.