NFL draft: ‘I went from palm trees to snowmen but couldn’t have been happier.’ This is what it’s like to be drafted into the NFL
You reflect on what it took to get to that moment: not just the training, the dedication, the sacrifice, but the injuries and the pain.
You know you had to go through it, and none of it made sense at the time, but it’s the moment you realize it was worth it.
From sun to snow
I was the 97th pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, chosen by the Buffalo Bills with their third-round selection.
Part of the thrill and stress of the project for the players is the unknown of where you will end up.
As far as college is concerned, a number of colleges can offer you scholarships, but in the NFL, when a team chooses you, you say yes.
I played for Stanford during my college studies in the California sun, and I was drafted by Buffalo, where some of the snowiest NFL games in history have been played. I went from palm trees to snowmen, but I couldn’t have been happier.
Dating back to the age of seven, my parents never missed a single match. And that includes when I moved to the other side of the country for university. At home or elsewhere, they were always there.
So it was a joy to learn that my team was only five hours away from my parents’ home.
I knew they were going to be able to drive and watch me live my dream every game.
Solidarity with loneliness
Many say that football is a great sport because it is the ultimate team game, but waiting to be drafted is one of the most insulating moments in the sport.
It’s the only time in your football career when it’s you, not us. And this is not helped by the unknown.
Your heart is pounding and you have a thousand questions in your head. Where am i going to go When will I be chosen? Will I even be chosen at all?
I was told that I would be a mid-term choice, but that doesn’t stop these questions from entering your brain.
It even happens to guys expected to be drafted in the first round.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was considered a potential first choice in the 2005 draft. But when the San Francisco 49ers selected Utah quarterback Alex Smith, Rodgers fell.
Six prospects were in the event’s green room. The other five were selected from the top eight picks, leaving Rodgers alone.
The teams passed, passed and passed, until Green Bay finally selected him 24th overall after four and a half hours of waiting.
This year’s draft should have been in Las Vegas to celebrate the Oakland Raiders’ move to Sin City.
Because of Covid 19, this obviously cannot happen.
The small group of players who could be drafted in the first round may have deserved an invitation to the event.
I understand that some people think they may have had their project stolen by this virus.
The chance to walk proudly on stage with their new team’s hat, shake the hand of Commissioner Roger Goodell and drink from the ovation of the thousands of fans present has been withdrawn.
But each player appreciates the project in a different way.
Future Hall of Fame member and 2007 first round pick Joe Thomas discovered he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns on a fishing trip.
Others want a big party with everyone they know and be at the epicenter of the action.
As someone who experienced the draft in Tennessee last year as a journalist and who experienced the 2002 draft from a player’s point of view, I know which one I would prefer to spend, especially right now during a global crisis.
Nothing is more special than being surrounded by the closest members of your family, those who supported you and made their own sacrifices along the way to bring you to this moment.
My family sold our house and brought us closer to town with larger schools so that I could get into college and eventually reach the NFL.
Sitting on the couch at home, surrounded by those you love, those who helped get you there, is exactly where you want to be.