Inspiring Stories About The Most Tenacious Underdogs In Sports

Everybody loves an underdog, it's impossible not to right? Those are the kinds of stories professional sports are made for.

Here are 21 inspiring stories of players that picked themselves back up and teams that came from behind for the win. Enjoy! And make sure to check out the sources for more.

From second-string to the Super Bowl


It's hard to think of Tom Brady as an underdog these days, but indeed there was a time when he only a lowly backup for Drew Bledscoe. No one thought hed have much of a career. Lightly regarded as the 199th overall pick for the NFL draft and hed only thrown three passes the previous season. However, he was finally forced into the game when the starting quarterback was targeted for a vicious hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.

Despite the lack of confidence, when Brady took the field he played so well that coach Bill Belichick decided to have Bledscoe on the bench. That season, Brady would go on to lead the team through the playoffs into the Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams. One of the best offensive teams in the league, the Rams were the easy favourite with an offense so powerful it was nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf. But the Patriots managed to pull off a stunning victory with Adam Vinatieris 48-yard game-winning field goal.

Not a blind side.


Unlike some of the people on this list, Michael Oher wasn't an underdog by the time he hit the professional leagues. Instead, he spent his whole life leading up to the start of his career playing Offensive Line for Ole Miss. You might remember his story from the 2009 film, The Blind Side.

Oher grew up in a troubled home that was plagued with drug addiction and run ins with the law. He bounced from home to home until he was eventually fostered by the Tuohy family. With the help of their loving home, Oher progressed at school well enough to put his massive 64 frame to use as a guard and left tackle for the famous Mississippi Rebels.

A standout player, he was the 23rd pick for the 2009 NFL draft and began his professional career with the Baltimore Ravens. He won his first Super Bowl ring in 2010.


Leicester strikes twice

Like what the Chicago Cubs famous losing streak was to the MLB, Leicester City had experienced 132 years of ineptitude in the English Premier League. The league notoriously has no salary caps, and as a result the title almost always goes to the team that can field the most cash.

Not a rich team, the Foxes football club entered the 2015-2016 season with 5000-1 odds to win the league crown stacked against them. For scale, the odds of being struck by lightening in your life is roughly 3000-1.

But it happened anyway. At a season record of 22-11-3, the Foxes just needed a loss or draw from the Tottenham Hotspurs to finally secure the EPL title. A 2-2 draw against Chelsea they received, and there was much rejoicing.


Can't Holm me down


Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey was coming into her 2015 match against Holly Holm on a hot streak. She had demolished her last three opponents, winning the fights in 34, 16 and 14 seconds each. She was the easy favourite to defend her UFC Bantamweight title.

But Holm wasn't concerned, because she knew that she had a secret weapon against Rousey. Rondas grapples were legendary, but Holm could sneakily beat her by using her boxing speciality to neutralize her grabs and deliver a brutal knock out kick in the second round.


Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Tennis player Goran Ivanisevic was once ranked No. 2 in the world and a three time runner up at Wimbledon. However, he'd never once captured the title. Not only that, but a debilitating shoulder injury put him out for the 2000 season and dropped his rank down to No. 125. He was a wild card in 2001 for sure, but definitely not a favourite.

Ivanisevic battled his way through some of the of toughest opponents in the tennis world to claim the Slam, and now coaches fellow Croatian superstar Marin Cilic to greatness in the U.S. Open.


The wild bunch.


Wimbledon FC was more famous for their behaviour then their skill during the 1980s. Nicknamed The Crazy Gang, they had a reputation for being unsophisticated and unruly. Words that are usually reserved for soccer fans rather than players.

However, despite their reputation Wimbledon still played hard, and proved to the league they were worth the chance at the oldest football tournament in the world, the FA Cup. Facing off against the more classic Liverpool team in 1988, their outlandish behaviour didn't mean they couldn't outplay them on the field for the win.


Watch the throne


No king rules forever, and Mike Tyson was finally dethroned from his plethora of titles after his fight with Buster Douglas in 1990. With 42-1 odds against him, Douglas became a world-class champion and a household name when he delivered the knockout to Iron Mike.

It was the first fight Tyson had lost in a long series of consecutive matches and cost him his WBA/WBC/IBF and lineal heavyweight championship titles.


Started from the bottom, now we're here


In a feat that hasn't since been repeated, the massively favoured No. 1 seed in the 1998 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament was defeated by the lowly 16th seed. The Stanford Cardinals were on 59 game winning warpath when they faced off against the Harvard Crimson.

The game was coming down to the wire on free throws, and in the last seconds of the game an intense back and forth down both sides of the court resulted in a victory for Harvard. Co-captain Allison Feaster was responsible for some of the most memorable plays, including a record sprint and leap to shut down a potentially game losing lay-up.


A miracle in the making


The 1969 New York Mets weren't nicknamed the Miracle Mets without good reason. When they started the season, pretty much nobody expected them to do much never mind win the World Series. However, when the end of the season came around they had an astonishing 100-62 record and destroyed the massively favoured Baltimore Orioles in a 4-1 series.


No bark, all bite


The Fresno State Bulldogs baseball team entered the 2008 NCAA tournament with a relatively unimpressive 37-27 record. They were lucky to have made the tournament, only eligible because of their victory in the WAC Conference.

But sometimes a shot at the title is all you need, and the Bulldogs punched above their weight against teams like the Arizona State and North Carolina. The dogfight came to a head against the Georgia Bulldogs in the championship game. Fresno State became the first fourth seed ever to take him the title, outscoring Georgia 31-18.


One for the glory


The 1966 Texas Western Miners were underdogs many more ways that just the basketball court. They were the first team to use an all Black line-up, something that was unheard of at the time and earned the ire of management and fans.

But coach Don Haskins had faith in his players, and that season the Miners took the NCAA title from the Kentucky Wildcats. Finishing the season with a 28-1 record, they triumphed handily against their rivals and doubters. In 2007 the team was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as inspiring the book and film Glory Road.


The devil is in the details.


Despite their almost losing record of 22-18-8, the 1994-1995 New Jersey Devils managed to make the playoffs as the fifth seas. The road to the Stanley Cup would be an extremely difficult one, facing teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers who featured star players like lead scorer Jaromir Jagr and MVP Eric Lindros.

But the Devils made it to the final round against the dominating Red Wings anyway. The resulting 4-0 series sweep was totally unprecedented, and it was the first Stanley Cup for the Devils.


The Greatest Show on Turf


Quarterback Kurt Warner was the kind of player that just wasn't being given the shot he needed to prove himself. Playing football at Northern Iowa, Warner didn't get a chance to hit the field until his senior season. He quickly proved his talent, but it still wasn't enough to earn him a place in the 1994 NFL draft.

So instead he went to the Arena Football League, playing from 95-97. He was finally going to be given a chance in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, but instead they shipped him off to NFL Europe to play for the Amsterdam Admirals. He was more than impressive overseas, and when Trent Green was knocked out during the 1999 preseason he went from backup to starting QB with St. Louis.

With Warner at the centre the Rams had a record breaking offence nicknamed The Greatest Show on Turf. Winning the Super Bowl in his first year, Warner threw for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns that season alone.


No glass slipper


James "Cinderella Man" Braddock has the kind of gumshoe rags to riches tale that only boxing can produce. He became a professional boxer early in his life, but struggled to win matches [despite his iron chin and wicked counterpunch]. Things took a turn for the worse when the Great Depression hit and Braddock was forced to and was forced to find a different way to support his family when the Great Depression hit.

But he loved boxing, and after a year away from the sport he was finally given another chance to fight. At that time, Braddock was seen as little more than a glorified punching bag, a stepping stone for the real contenders to move past. However he stood his ground and took on all comers, denying them the easy opportunity they thought they had in the bag.

Even when he got a shot at the heavyweight title, reigning champ Max Baer saw Braddock as little more than an easy chance to keep his title. It was probably that attitude that cost him the match. With his iron chin and wicked counterpunch, Braddock won the fight by unanimous decision and was crowned heavyweight champion of the world.


No messing with the wolf pack


Jimmy Valvano and his NC State Wolfpack etched themselves into NCAA history when they claimed the 1983 Mens title. Fighting in the final four, they were able to beat Georgia 67-60 before facing No. 1 seed Houston in the finals.

The extremely close game came down to a legendary dunk by Lorenzo Charles, just barely beating the buzzer.


The road warriors.


When the 2005-2006 Edmonton Oilers entered the Western Conference playoffs they were the worst seed with a record of 41-28-13. That meant they would have to go through some of the best teams in the conference, and do it all on the road without the hometown advantage. Something like that would spell death for most teams, but the Oilers actually had a much better road record than they did at home during the regular season.

In the first round against the currently No. 1 Red Wings, the Oilers surprised everyone by winning a 4-2 series. They continued the hot streak, winning four straight games against San Jose and going 4-1 against the Mighty Ducks.

They lost the Stanley Cup to the Carolina Hurricanes after an intense seven game series, but the story of their playoff comeback made them the most memorable part of that years NHL season.


A beautiful moment in the beautiful game


Despite the popularity and skill of football across Europe, Greece was always overshadowed by teams like Germany and Spain in the UEFA Euro Cup. So when they entered the cup in 2004 there wasn't much hope for them to be a contender.

In the qualifying stage they lost their first two matches, but kept hanging on anyway and came away with victory in their final six games. The group stage was even harder, but the team prevailed and earned themselves a spot in the quarterfinals facing off against reigning champion France.

Amazingly Greece was able to beat the favourite, and took that energy straight to the top against the Czech Republic and a final 1-0 shut out against Portugal to win the tournament.


The Miracle on Ice


The Miracle on Ice will always remain the top underdog story in the hearts and minds of sports fans. The 1980 USA Mens Olympic hockey team had been playing great so far, but it was made up of amateurs and college stars at best. Meanwhile the Soviet Union team had been playing together for years, one of the most developed teams in the word with luminaries among them like goalie Vladislav Tretiak. So yes, it was exactly like Rocky IV.

The first game in the medal round was settled at 2-2 by the end of the first period. The Soviet coach decided to give Tretiak a break and benched him, a move which is unanimously agreed as the turning point of the game to the Americans favour. They went on the offensive for a 4-3 lead, and with seconds left in the game the Soviets panicked and went wild for the tie. Only barely being stopped by the equally tenacious American offence.

Do you believe in miracles? YES! After the final buzzer rang coach Herb Brooks sprinted to the locker room and cried, joined shortly by his players as they broke out into a chorus of God Bless America. Was this the first event in the collapse of the Soviet Union? Probably.


No one bites like a bulldog


A tiny school from Indianapolis defeated the odds two years in a row when the appropriately named Butler Bulldogs went to the NCAA title game back to back. Despite losing to the Duke Blue Devils and UConn Huskies in 2010 and 2011, the tenacity of the Bulldogs proved to the league that the well-funded mega teams couldn't dominate without a fight from the little guy.


The prodigal baller


Jeremy Lin faced rejection through his entire career, starting with being denied a chance to play college basketball in his home state. He took his skills to Harvard Crimson instead, but continued to remain undrafted until he was reluctantly picked up by the Golden State Warriors. After spending his 2010-2011 season with them, Lin was dropped before the 2011-2012 season even began.

He had another failed shot with the Houston Rockets, but it wasn't until he found his way to the New York Knicks that his career became recognized. With star players injured and the team in despair, they had to look to the bench. Which is where they found Lin.

He took full advantage of his opportunity, outscoring heavyweights like Kobe Bryant in the process. He returned triumphantly to the Rockets to the tune of a multi-million dollar contract.


Bouncing back with vengeance and a smile


It's a prove yourself thing. Thats how outfielder Josh Hamilton describes the roller coaster of a career he's had in the MLB. It started with nothing but promise, the 1999 first pick for the Tampa Bay draft and USA Baseballs pick for amateur of the year. However, Hamilton didn't make his major league debut until 2007.

While he was in the Minor Leagues, he suffered debilitating injuries that kept him from playing the game he loved. Hamilton began hanging out at tattoo parlours and impulsively spent money on ink, later becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol as well. In 2005 he collapsed on his grandmothers doorstep and began the long, painful road to recovery. He got his second chance playing for the Cincinnati Reds, under the condition that he take three drug tests a week. Despite the pressure, Hamilton has developed a jovial attitude towards his past. When a St. Louis fan heckled him by yelling "My name is Josh Hamilton, and Im a drug addict!" Hamilton turned around, raised his palms to the sky and said, Tell me something I don't know, dude!

The entire section laughed and cheered for him for the rest of the game.


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