Ralph Orta isn't discouraged easily.
"Nobody ever paid me any attention," the former Maryland defensive lineman said.
He wasn't invited to the NFL's annual scouting combine meeting, he wasn't drafted and he wasn't signed as a free agent by any team after the draft.
"Let me tell you something, that was probably the hardest year of my life, being out of football. All it did was aggravate me. It made me really angry," he said.
He didn't get the message that pro football might not be in his future.
"It made me want to play that much more, but there's nothing I can do about that now. That was then. I can't live in the past. I've got to keep moving on."
He said he spent the last year at his home in New Milford, N.J. running and lifting weights. He built himself up from 260 to 285 pounds.
Orta also decided to sell himself. Last year, with an agent, he failed to get into a camp.
This time, he decided to try it without one. He put together a 10-minute videotape of his best plays at Maryland and sent it to all 28 teams in January.
"It was something to let them know what I can do," he said. "I didn't have my name out there. People didn't know who I was. Nobody focused on me."
It also helped that since he'sbeen out of college a year, he doesn't count as a rookie under the NFL rules so his contract isn't counted against a team's rookie signing pool.
The Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants all showed some interest, but he hit the jackpot with the Washington Redskins.
They offered him a contract last week. Because of the 80-man roster limit, just getting into an NFL camp was a victory of sorts for Orta. Now, he's got a chance.
"He's a tough, aggressive kid with a good motor," general manager Charley Casserly said.
When the Redskins start their annual weekend mini-camp today at Redskin Park, Orta will get a chance to start showing what he can do. This is only the dress rehearsal -- without pads -- for the opening of training camp on July 18, but it's a first look.
The odds are still stacked against him. Last year, only one undrafted free agent -- running back Robert Green -- made the team.
The top draft choices -- cornerback Tom Carter and running back Reggie Brooks -- will get most of the attention. Even his former Maryland teammate, tight end Frank Wycheck, who was drafted on the sixth round after passing up his senior year, will spark more interest.
"I know a lot of people who went in as free agents and didn't make it," said Orta, who will be joined in camp by another ex-Maryland defensive lineman, Derek Steele. "I'm very confident going to make it. I'm the strongest I've ever been. I deserve to be playing in the league. That's what I'm going to show them. The Redskins are a first-class organization and I'm really happy to be there."
Orta, who got his degree in government at Maryland, hasn't bothered to consider what he might do if he doesn't make it.
"I haven't thought about that," he said. "I want to make that team. That's my main priority."
NOTES: The Redskins signed their fourth free agent from another team yesterday when they came to terms with TE Jim Riggs, a six-year veteran from the Cincinnati Bengals. He became expendable when the Bengals drafted TE Ben McGee, a player the Redskins would have taken if he'd been available, on the second round. The Redskins also reopened talks with RB Marcus Allen of the Los Angeles Raiders and expect to sign him after minicamp. . . . Backup QB Cary Conklin will do the long throwing at minicamp because Mark Rypien says he's recovering from shoulder surgery and his arm is about 80 percent. Rypien, who expects to be fully recovered for training camp in July, says he'll throw short passes over the middle. . . . Besides Steele, the Redskins announced the signing of six more free agents -- former World League QB Chris Cochrane, WR Greg Clifton of Johnson C. Smith, RB Chuckie Dukes of Boston College, OT Guy Earle of Chadron State and two players they cut last year -- FS Pat Eilers and OL Tom Fuhler.