This story was first published on April 26, 2011.
The workouts are done. The game film is put away.
While NFL front offices and coaching staffs continue to work this week toward putting their big boards together, there is nothing for the athletes eagerly awaiting Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft to do but sit and wait.
For some, a lifetime of hard work will be rewarded with their name being called among the 32 first-round picks. For others, draft day will stretch into Friday’s and Saturday’s later rounds.
Whatever the case, NFL Network analyst and USA Football spokesman Charles Davis has a simple piece of advice: Sit back, enjoy the ride, spend time with people you are closest with and try not to worry too much about it.
“For the players, the hay is in the barn. All you can do now is hurt yourself so stay out of trouble,” said Davis, a former defensive back at the University of Tennessee and undrafted free-agent signee with the Dallas Cowboys in 1987. “Be with your family, the people who will be there for you no matter how it goes. If you don’t go as high as you thought, they will support you. If you go higher, they will celebrate with you.”
Desmond Howard was the No. 4 overall pick in 1992, selected out of the University of Michigan by the Washington Redskins. He also played for four other NFL teams, earning the Super Bowl XXXI Most Valuable Player award with the Green Bay Packers.
Now a college football analyst with ESPN and a member of USA Football’s board of directors, Howard said he tuned out all the speculation about where he would land after winning the Heisman Trophy.
Nearly 20 years ago, the NFL Draft was televised but not the 24/7 operation it is today. Still, Howard said nothing has changed as far as players go – no matter how many cameras are rolling, they still can do no more than wait for their name to be called.
“I was at home with my parents, with friends and trying to enjoy myself,” Howard said. “It’s always up in the air until you are actually picked. You may think you know who has interest in you, but you never really know.”
Where a player is taken does not determine NFL success. Since the first draft in 1936, more Pro Football Hall of Famers went unselected (14) than were taken No. 1 overall (12).
Magnified media coverage can make it seem every team is made or broken with the draft. The truth is nobody truly knows how a player will perform until he puts on the pads and heads out to the practice field.
“There is such a thirst for the draft, and the NFL has gotten so much bigger (than when I played),”Davis said. “People talk about the offseason as much as they do the regular season. … First they started televising it. Now the NFL Network is involved. People talk about it all year round.”