"This is a second-round suit," Upshaw said Friday night.
Even if it was intended to be for the first round.
He stood at an elevator beneath Radio City Music Hall, waiting to be whisked to Penn Station for a 9:05 p.m. train to Baltimore and a new football life. He wore a Ravens cap and a smile. But it was about 23 hours later than he expected to be taken. Little in the wait for the NFL can be worse than being invited to the draft as an expected first-round choice and then go the whole first night without being picked.
This year, the league brought 26 players here. When the first round was over, six remained. This meant six soon-to-be-NFL players had to walk back to their hotel, carefully peel off six new suits, hang them back up in the closet and then get dressed again on Friday for another endless wait.
"It's not the best feeling in the world," Stanford tight end Coby Fleener said.
And Fleener had it easy. His wait ended on the second pick of Friday's second round when the Indianapolis Colts took him to play with his college teammate Andrew Luck. Upshaw went soon after as did wide receiver Stephen Hill, who was picked by the New York Jets. Far longer was Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still's wait. He didn't go until the 56th pick at 8:35 p.m., roughly 90 minutes after the start of Round 2.
But nothing as tedious as the more-than-two-hour-wait former LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle endured through the rest of Round 2 and into the third until the New York Giants selected him.
Inside Radio City Music Hall, Giants fans screamed when he was picked. Commissioner Roger Goodell walked onto the stage and wrapped Randle in the same giant embrace he gave first-rounders the night before. Then Goodell, Randle and former Giants star Michael Strahan – who announced the selection – turned and posed for a photograph. It was all official, but coming so late on the second evening, it also seemed weird.
"I knew coming in everything was out of my hands," Randle said.
He was surrounded by family as he waited on Friday. One bonus for the players who don't get picked on the first day is that they were allowed to bring as many guests into the green room as they want opposed to the six they are permitted on the first night. Randle's family, which had come from northeastern Louisiana, spent the night talking. There was so much to discuss about their first trip to New York – the food they ate, the places they shopped, the buildings they saw – that they barely noticed the draft speeding past.
"Oh man this is a dream," his mother Troye Randle said. "We've been watching this thing for years and now we get to be here."
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And when Randle didn't get picked on Thursday?
"We got to spend an extra day in New York," she said.
Still, it is hard to watch player after player leave the green room on Thursday night and wonder how your once-fabulous stock has tumbled so far. Most of the leftovers used the same word to describe their first-round predicament:
Or as Upshaw said on the way to the elevator: "I just really felt I deserved a first-round pick," he said.
Then he shrugged.
"But it didn't happen."
The drop will probably cost Upshaw around $300,000 a year, though he will get to free agency after four years opposed to five for first-round selections.
He spent the day playing video games, while his family fretted, wondering when the suspense would end. Tom and Leigh McKenzie, Upshaw's surrogate parents who came up from his hometown of Efaula, Ala., only brought one set of nice clothes on their trip. Leigh laughed and said she was wearing the same pants as the previous night while Tom wore the same suit. Both had red and white buttons with Upshaw's college jersey No. 41.
"Of course we think he should have been picked No. 1, ahead of Andrew Luck," Leigh said.
Her husband laughed. The previous night there was no room for them in the green room so they sat with the fans inside Radio City.
"This time they brought us in to get it done," he said.
The evening was getting late. Upshaw was already up the elevator and on the way to the train. The long wait was over.
It didn't seem so bad, after all.
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