April 23, 2008
No player really knows where the hell he's going in the draft (except Jake Long). I know this because playing four years in the NFL has taught me that anything is possible. Watching high-profile draftees sulk while teams pick in every different direction but theirs shows that anything is possible. Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning is possible:
Still, people make a great living deciding which team and city an athlete should play for, but what happens in the 15 minutes on the team's clock falls on the shoulders of all the agents, scouts, GMs and teams.
I went into my own draft day with high hopes, as I'm sure every player does. I was predicted as high as the third tight end taken, down to as low as the sixth or seventh. These predictions put me anywhere from the middle of the second round to anywhere in the fourth. As any player would have, I expected it would be somewhere in the second round. High hopes are more fun.
I made it casually through the morning before the start of the draft. No chance
I was getting taken in the first round, so my plans were to go golfing and wait
for a phone call. I figured a little golf was much more relaxing. As it turned
out golfing on a Saturday in Logan,
Utah is a popular event. I made
the rounds to four different courses, striking out at all of them. If the first
round could have been Sunday it would have worked out great for me. No Mormons
golf on Sunday, I would have had the course to myself.
Since golf didn't work out, I did nothing. Waiting around to get drafted felt almost like running on a treadmill. I was helpless to do anything but sit and stare at the clock and wait for it to be over. A parade of naked women could have run through the living room and my eyes would have never left the TV.
Toward the end of the second round my mind was running wild with scenarios. Maybe San Francisco would take me. I would love to play for the Broncos. I was even ready to settle for Detroit. As a matter of fact I didn't care where, just now!
My mind drifted back to a trip to visit the Cowboys. Everything was great until I made my way into Bill Parcell's office. After sitting down, the first words out of his mouth were, "I'll be honest, the reason you're here is because we like you as a special teams player. I don't think you'll ever be a starter in the league. We're thinking about taking you around the sixth round." I'm a pretty confident guy, so I walked out of the office with my head high. I did a great job and blocked out the trip, but by the middle of round three I was dying.
Two months earlier I got my first cell phone. Yeah, 2004 and Chris Cooley finally has a cell phone. The problem wasn't that I had a phone, the problem was the service. I couldn't keep more than one bar in the corner of the phone, and I was starting to believe that I must have been missing calls. I had spent the last four hours glued to the screen, but had to drag myself outside to at least see if I got a message from someone. By the time my foot hovered over the bottom stair of the front porch the house erupted. The cheering couldn't be mistaken, but I had still never received a phone call.
Eighty-first pick to the Washington Redskins and I could have never felt more relieved. I remember thinking why hasn't the team called me? It was a perfect thought as my little brother turned to me and said, "Oh yeah, some guy is on hold for ya, he's only been on hold for a couple minutes." I took the phone and Joe Gibbs says, "I hope you want to be a Redskin, we had to trade up for you." Joe Gibbs! A Hall of Fame coach wanted to trade up for me.
One of the most important factors in the NFL draft might be how a player matches a team. Becoming a Redskin couldn't have been a better fit for me. I have been given every opportunity to succeed and have always worked to make the best of them. With all the things I have accomplished in my short career, draft day will always be one of my best memories.
Chris Cooley is a Pro Bowl tight end for the Redskins and blogs every Wednesday here on Shutdown Corner. Read more from Cooley on his personal blog, where he gets awesome all the time.
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