The NFL Network often gets praise, and deservedly so, for its series A Football Life. The show chronicles the, well, football lives of some of the greatest and most beloved (and occasionally hated, ahem, Art Modell) and famous figures in the history of the sport. To less fanfare, the network debuted a companion series on Tuesday nights that portrays the very opposite of that show’s aim, and it’s deserving of your time.
Undrafted, a six-part series airing on Tuesdays that concludes December 9 (though past episodes are available on the NFL Now service) is more or less what it sounds like. The documenatry follows various aspiring football players who were, for whatever reason, not picked in the NFL Draft. Some of the players include men who have second jobs (Jonathan Sharpe is an exterminator) and men who have families, like 27-year-old BYU standout Harvey Unga.
The show is something extremely key for a program on a league-owned network: honest. It covers all of the angles of a life as an undrafted player. It’s not sugarcoated that some of these guys, maybe most of them, will not make it. The show manages to be light and hit all the notes of typical football documentaries, but with the added tension that you’re watching a movie that may not give you the happy ending.
The show is an intriguing idea, at least in my opinion, because it has a staid format to it, like perhaps an HBO 24/7, but it could potentially last for many, many seasons. You would constantly be taking new athletes into the series and when players either retired or finally got a job with an NFL team, transition them out. You could drop and rejoin various players throughout the show. There are limitless possibilities despite an obvious format.
I give the NFL Network a lot of credit for not only committing to a program that shows part of the dark side to having an NFL dream, but executing it extremely well. If you have the NFL Now app or a chance to catch it on a rerun, give Undrafted a shot, and check out the last two episodes on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET if you can. It’s the rare league-produced documentary on current athletes that manages to feel neutral, and all the more important because of it. It’s the perfect companion to A Football Life each week.