It’s the feeling that permeates every NFL prospect on the draft day. No matter whether they’re a sure fire top 10 selection or they’re just hoping to hear their name called at some point late Saturday afternoon. The feelings are the same because the next few hours… or days will determine the city where they’re living and the launching point to achieving their dreams.
Athletes inherently like to have control over the situation. While out on the field a player has the power to have a large impact on the final outcome. It is that drive for control that motivates most athletes.
Helplessness. It’s a terrible feeling.
During high school every Thursday was the standard “jersey only” walk thru. It was the final tune up to make sure every player knew when they were supposed to be in and what the adjustments were for the game. At the walk thru my defensive coordinator used to always say “the hay’s in the barn,” meaning the harvest was done. There was nothing more we could do during the walk thru to get better or change the game plan. It is the same feeling for draft prospects the week of the draft. Leading into the draft, players will relive every step of their 40 and every word they spoke during interviews. The reality is there is nothing they can now to change it. There is a certain liberating feeling about it, but there is also a feeling worry. They cannot change any coach’s opinion about them from this moment on, the hay’s in the barn. Now it is time relax.
I was never one who would’ve wanted to attend the draft, but then again I was never asked. To me, getting drafted was intensely personal. It was the culmination of my athletic life’s work and it was always important to me to share it with those who helped facilitate my success. Whether it was little league coaches, teammates, neighbors and teachers, they were all as much a part of my dream as I. So rather than sitting in the green room with 6 family members eating stale pretzels with strangers, I wanted to have everyone around to celebrate. Whether I went higher or lower than expected, it was important for me to celebrate the day.
Every player has a draft window. It’s the place their agent has told them they should be ready to get THE call. Calculating the window might be the most inexact science imaginable. It is a culmination of what scouts have told them, what teams need and the agent’s overall experience. For me Jimmy Sexton was right on. I had window between the Browns and Jets in 2006. Miami, Dallas and New England were in the window, but it began around pick 12 and was ending near the end of the 1st round. I have to admit when the draft started I didn’t think I would be nervous at all. There were beers to drink and corn hole to be played. Watching with excitement when my teammates AJ Hawk and Donte Witner were both selected in the top 10. Why would I be nervous? I told myself there was nothing I could do, so just enjoy the process, but once pick 10 rolled around it began to change. It wasn’t nerves from wanting to go higher in the draft (although that would be nice), but it was just the clarity of where I had to live and whom I would be playing for.
It is the inherent problem with the draft. The players have no control and as some players will free fall for 2 or 3 rounds, the helplessness only intensifies. After seeing my children being born, getting drafted was the most emotional day of my life. So as you watch with excitement for the 3 day draft bonanza remember that some players will be sleeping with excitement and some will be sleeping with disappointment. The disappointment with not only being passed over, but also that they will be traveling on the same emotional rollercoaster for one more day.