Ace Sanders and Damian Copeland have been counted out many times, but they've never stayed down for the full count.
Now they are back at it again, vying for a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars. You can't help but root for both, hoping each earns an NFL paycheck this season.
A four-year starter at Manatee, Sanders proved himself at South Carolina, where he set a school single-season record for punt return yardage along with demonstrating high-level receiving skills.
Ever since he stepped on the football field, the 5-foot-7 Sanders has been labeled too small and not fast enough. He proved all of his critics wrong without growing an inch.
Copeland gained a reputation as an acrobatic receiver at Palmetto and continued this success at Louisville, though he was labeled injury prone and not big enough.
He also embarrassed his critics.
They are both with the Jaguars. Sanders was a fourth-round draft pick in 2013, and Copeland signed as an undrafted free agent last year.
They have had their ups and downs. Sanders was suspended for four games last year for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Copeland was placed on injured reserve last summer after tearing a ligament in his right wrist.
Though he is flying under the radar, Copeland has drawn praise from the Jacksonville coaches and might possess some of those intangibles that turn long shots into Wes Welkers.
Sanders has received notice from Gus Bradley this spring for his consistency in running routes and catching passes, but the Jags head coach says he wants to see more out of his punt return game.
The 23-year-old seems to have a new resolve and dedication to the game.
The Jaguars wanted to see more of Copeland and kept him. Now at 24, he is healthy and ready. The 6-1, 182-pounder doesn't have blazing speed, but he has shown a knack for getting open.
"He was the type of kid that everyone kind of said was too short or too small, but then you call up what he did. He is one of the best receivers I've ever seen," says Ray Woodie, his coach at Palmetto. "I've always said character wins out over ability, and he is a high-character guy with talent."
Copeland led Louisville in receptions in both his junior and senior seasons and appears to have the ability to shine in the slot, where so many underrated guys have made a good living.
"It was tough not playing last year after coming out of Louisville with two big seasons, but it's nothing I can't handle," he says. "I did everything that I could. I went to the home games, went to meetings and worked out. The only thing i didn't do was play."
Copeland was cleared to resume all activities in December. He has gone through OTAs (offseason training activities) and minicamp and feels comfortable with the scheme Jags new offensive coordinator Greg Olson installed.
"I like the offense. You just have to learn it conceptually," Copeland says. "It felt good to be out there again. The hardest thing about being a professional is time management, putting things that are important up front and taking care of those right away, especially when you get into the season."
Last season, Copeland missed out on a chance to connect with Blake Bortles, the first quarterback selected in the 2014 draft, but he had a successful relationship at Louisville with Teddy Bridgewater, selected in the first round by Minnesota last year.
Sanders was the Jags' second-leading receiver in 2013 with 51 catches for 484 yards. When he returned to the team last season, he never got into the receiver rotation and caught only six passes for 55 yards.
Punt return skill appears to be the primary reason the Jags drafted Sanders. He came through his rookie season when pressed into service at receiver because of injuries to others.
These guys could make the Jaguars fall camp an interesting affair. You want both to win.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.