CHARLOTTE – Former Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen expected to be drafted. But he wasn't.
"It sucked," Allen said during the Panthers rookie minicamp. "But there are other options. And I'm here now."
Allen was one of nine undrafted free agents to sign with the Panthers. It wasn't his desired route to the NFL, but it gives him the opportunity to compete right alongside Carolina's six draft choices.
"I got over it fairly quickly and I realized as soon as Carolina started calling me I had a good opportunity to come here and make the roster," Allen said. "My attitude changed completely. It was all positive, and I had the mindset that I was going to come here and get after it."
Former Ohio State wide receiver Philly Brown shares that mindset. He too expected to be a late-round draft choice but instead joined Allen as an undrafted free agent in Carolina.
"Whether I was drafted or not, I was going to come in here with a chip on my shoulder and compete every day," Brown said. "I'm out here trying to compete for a spot. It's all about a roster spot."
If last year is any indication, Carolina is a good place for undrafted free agents, to make their mark. In 2013, cornerback Melvin White, safety Robert Lester and defensive end Wes Horton played significant roles for the Panthers defense despite being undrafted free agents.
That caught Allen and his agent's attention.
"We definitely noticed that," Allen said. "They played undrafted free agents and we looked at that. We looked at a bunch of teams and not many of them did. But the Panthers gave them opportunities, and that sparked our interest."
Allen is hoping to prove his worth as a versatile linebacker who can provide depth and special teams ability. He lacks ideal measurables (5-11, 220 pounds) but so did special teams ace Jordan Senn, a seven-year veteran who signed with the Chicago Bears this offseason after five seasons in Carolina.
Being a part of arguably the best defense in college football last year won't hurt Allen's cause.
"Coming off a team like that is a good feeling. It just built my confidence being a part of the No. 1 defense in the nation," said Allen, a three-year starter who led the Spartans with 98 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss a senior. "I'm confident in my abilities and I had great coaches (at Michigan State). The defense here is kind of similar to the one I ran in college, so I am really comfortable."
It's a similar scenario for Brown. The speedster's lack of size hurt his draft stock (5-11, 180 pounds), but he hopes to provide depth at wide receiver and prove that he can be a difference-maker in the return game – much like fellow-Buckeye Ted Ginn was for Carolina last year. Brown led the Big Ten with a 12.3-yard punt return average in 2012.
"I feel like I could play receiver if I worked hard enough, but I can contribute on special teams – that's what I really want to do," Brown said. "I feel like I can be a good punt returner and even kick returner here."