Watching the NFL draft reminds me of all those years I worked for the NBA and LOVED it. There is a crazy amount of excitement and an amazing sense of innocence from all the players. It is the first time many of us get to meet these big stars, and they are so nervous! To be honest with you, they were so cute. Young, thankful, grateful and innocent.
I know the NFL is big business, but all I've seen at the NFL Draft is emotion - pure and raw. And that is why I, we, watch. The hugs between family members, the tears at the table, and the childhood dreams coming true as young men walk onto the stage to greet Mr. Goodell or answer a phone call from their new team owner. What a moment! And even though there is an incredible paycheck attached, when you break down this draft moment it is beautiful in it’s purest form. It is A DREAM coming true. And under those full beards and 2-300lb frames, they are still the same little boys waiting to get picked to play the game they love!
Once they hit training camp, the game is all business. But on draft night, when Roger Goodell calls their name…at that moment, it means they've made it. It means all of their hard work has paid off. All of their families hard work has paid off. You can see it. You can feel it. And, it is awesome. I have heard draftee’s say, “You get this one moment, you’ve got to go for it.” Go for it and hug whomever you can, cry if you want to, and jump up and down if that’s what makes you happy.
And then, of course, there are the ones that chose to be present at Draft night and did not get drafted. Even thinking about it now makes me cringe. Every time they would show Geno Smith, I would imagine what he was feeling, and I was sad for him. It was brutal to watch him get passed up time and time again. When they put him on TV, he was always looking down at his phone and probably wishing he could hide from the cameras. But he will be better for it. It is just another reminder of how young these men are even though they seem so strong.
We’ve all had our dream moments. For me, it was making the Olympic team and then winning a gold medal. Part of the joy of making the team was getting to enjoy the moment with my family and taking it all in. Draft night is just that, I would imagine. One part of the dream is realized, and they get to pat themselves on the back and relive the moment of their official announcement as a member of the NFL. And then they begin to focus on the second part of their dream… of doing something great with this opportunity both on the field and off. Dreaming of making it to the Pro Bowl, of an MVP season, and being named a Super Bowl Champion all while giving back to the communities around them.
Seeing all those dreams and goals in the smiles of a 21- or 22-year-old when he hears his name called, that's what the NFL Draft is all about!