“Don’t watch the draft.” That’s what everyone told me. My agents, my parents and anyone who’s ever been drafted in the later rounds all said the same thing.
Guess who watched the draft unfold without his name being called until almost the very end…
Watching the draft proceedings as a top prospect is much different than of a lower tier guy, like myself. There are generally a few ways to watch the draft if you’re a top prospect. One is actually being invited to the draft. You sit in the green room and hope for your name to get called the first night. Most often, that’s what happens. Every once in awhile someone drops to the second round and they must stay in the green room an extra day. While it might be a tad embarrassing, you’re still getting the glory of being drafted in the second round.
The next way to watch the draft is sitting at home on the couch with family members and close friends. Increasingly this seems to be more enticing for the top prospects as less are traveling to the draft site.
My brother went this route (he wasn’t invited to NY), but he was also expected to go the end of the second round and maybe the third as one of the top tackles. We felt comfortable watching the draft because we knew he’d go on the second day.
We didn’t get very far into the second round s the second round before a phone call from a 216 area code shocks everyone. My brother was drafted 36th by the Cleveland Browns. We were all so pumped for him, and after he got picked, we had no idea what to do. We had planned a draft party for the following day to celebrate Mitch being drafted and he got drafted at the start of the day. So we had an extra celebratation dinner. No one was upset about that.
We all know Joe Thomas’s draft day story. Joe was projected to a top draft pick, and he was, third overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2007. How did Joe find out he was drafted? He got a call while fishing in Wisconsin. The best of both worlds.
So my story … it’s different than those above.
As a lower level draft prospect, ranked anywhere from 11th to 15th best offensive tackle, I knew I was most likely a fourth- to sixth-round pick. I’ve always appreciated that my agents never represented anything other than that. I believed that’s where I was going.
The first day of the draft (two days back then) featured rounds one and two. To avoid watching the draft, I wasn’t home. I went to a friend’s baseball game and enjoyed not being around the TV, but there was no anxiety because I wasn’t being drafted that high. But someone, I don’t remember who, kept texting me updates on my blackberry during the game. I learned that 10 (a super high number) of tackles went in the first two rounds. Eight of those 10 went in the first round. It was a big year for tackles.
Maybe being arrogant and/or naïve, I thought I’d be next up for the tackles, and that would start at the top of round three.
What I didn’t realize is when a big run on a position happens early in the draft, there comes a lull after the run because other positions are now at an increased value. It pushes players who aren’t tackles that might have higher draft grades but weren’t drafted because of those tackles down the board and they get drafted in front of a lower graded tackle.
So I woke up super early on the West Coast on day two of the draft, sitting on my parents futon in the office at 6 a.m., with the TV turned to the draft coverage. Names started going fast and none were tackles and none were Geoff Schwartz.
My phone, attached to my hand, wasn’t ringing either.
The fourth round goes by, and the same. A few tackles did get drafted, but not me. My phone, which I’m checking obsessively every minute isn’t ringing either.
The fifth round is up now and my anxiety is through the roof. I was getting upset as well and wondering why my name isn’t called. I did the math and I should be up soon.
My phone rings for the first time. It’s the Panthers. Their offensive line coach tells me they are picking soon and he’s fighting for me to be drafted. Their pick is on the clock and … it’s not me.
Yikes. More anxiety. More anger. At some point after the fifth round I spent time outside shooting hoops with my uncle. I took a walk. I did other things. I don’t remember. I was stressed out.
Now comes the sixth round and more calls like the one above. We want to draft you, I swear we do. Their pick comes up, not drafted.
This is how coaches start to recruit for the undrafted free agent process. They tell you “you know I like you, but I don’t decide who we draft. If you go undrafted, I want you. I’ll have the team call you agent.”
At that point, these calls became infuriating.
Now the seventh round is up. It’s rolling along, and I’m talking to my agent. We are preparing for an undrafted free agent deal. I actually have a deal in place. I was standing outside when I got that call. I go inside to watch the final few picks of the draft.
My phone rings again, from a 704 area code. If my memory serves me right, it’s Brandon Beane from the Panthers, now the general manager of the draft. He asks me some form of this question “Are you excited about being drafted”… I answer “at this point I don’t even care.”
The draft had defeated me.
I don’t recall if Beane even answered what I said, but the next thing I know, someone on the other end is telling me I’ve been drafted by the Panthers at pick 241. All that anxiety, stress and anger turned into pure joy. I got drafted!!!
At some point during day two of the draft my dad cancelled my little post draft celebration party at the local Mexican spot up the street. When news I got drafted spread around, all of my family friends put the party back on. It was a blast. Someone, possibly my uncle, went to the mall and found two Panthers hats. I had one and my grandfather, who was so proud of me, was rocking the other. We celebrated into the night.