Why a top-10 pick called Provo, Utah, from the NFL draft

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze, center, poses on the red carpet with his family ahead of the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit.

Soon after getting selected ninth overall by the Chicago Bears at the 2024 NFL draft in Detroit, Rome Odunze was on the phone to Provo, Utah, to thank one of the men who helped make his dreams come true.

“I’m going to Chicago, Grandpa!” he said on the call, according to a video clip he shared on Instagram.

He continued, “I’m super excited. I just wanted to call and see your face and tell you thank you for all that you did to help me get to this point.”

Rome Odunze’s Utah roots

Odunze was born in Orem, Utah, but moved to Las Vegas with his parents when he was 3 years old, according to USA Today.

He’d return to the area each summer to stay on his grandparents’ dairy farm. During those trips, his grandfather, Wayne Bunnell, taught him the value of hard work.

“I really model my work ethic after my grandpa. He worked for so long on that farm to feed his family, to make ends meet,” Odunze told ESPN a few months ago.

But Bunnell hasn’t been able to see those lessons pay off. He was blinded during a bicycle accident in August 2016, years before Odunze became a star wide receiver for the University of Washington.

Bunnell sat near the TV during Odunze’s college games and relied on the announcers and his wife, Helen, to explain what was happening on the field.

“I can’t really see that he’s doing them, but I can hear that Rome did this, Rome did that. He’s a special kind of guy,” Bunnell told ESPN.

Ahead of the draft, Odunze told USA Today that his family has been a huge part of his journey to the NFL.

“It’s something I’ve been chasing since I was 6 years old ... and I think my family’s even more excited than I am,” he said.

Rome Odunze
Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze celebrates after being chosen by the Chicago Bears with the ninth overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. | Jeff Lewis

Where was Rome Odunze drafted?

Odunze was one of the prospects invited to be at the NFL draft during the first round. He celebrated on stage with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before placing the call to his grandpa.

“I got to go pretty quick and I got to go a good spot. I’ll be able to take care of us. I’ll get you something nice. Don’t worry, Grandpa,” Odunze said on the call.

Odunze’s Instagram video was part of Verizon’s “Call to Pro” content series.