By Mike DeVito
(Mike played nine seasons in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs.)
Draft day not only represents a culmination of 3 to 5 years of extremely hard work playing college football, it also represents 5 to 6 months of elevated mental and physical stress preparing for the NFL.
Choosing an agent from amongst the 10-20 that are recruiting you; training night and day seven days a week for two months straight getting ready for the NFL combine (or college pro-day); traveling to different NFL facilities to be interviewed by coaches and draft personnel and choosing a financial advisor. These are all vitally important components that go into getting one ready for the next level and making a mistake in any one of these areas could mean not making it at all. Not to mention, underlying this entire process is the excitement and anxiety that comes along with being on the brink of achieving (at least for many of us) one’s childhood dream. It should go without saying that for NFL hopefuls draft weekend is extraordinarily emotional.
April 28th and 29th of 2007 was certainly emotional for me. I had been projected by a few NFL draft sites as possibly getting picked by a team in the 7th round. I was hopeful but also realistic. I only invited a few close family members to our draft “party” in order to avoid the embarrassment if I didn’t get drafted.
The team I had the most interaction with prior to the draft was the New York Jets–specifically, defensive line coach Dan Quinn. I grew up a die-hard Jets fan and the thought of playing for them was almost too much to handle. New York only had 4 picks in the draft so I knew it was a long shot.
From the first utterance of new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (“With the first pick in the 2007 NFL draft the Oakland Raiders select JaMarcus Russell”) to last the announcement of Mr. Irrelevant, it felt like I had drank 15 cups of coffee. I couldn’t stop sweating, pacing the floors, checking my phone, analyzing the defensive linemen who had already been drafted, hating on the defensive lineman who had already been drafted, and yelling at anyone who spoke to me.
Alas, one by one 255 names came across the bottom of the TV screen, none of them mine. The second the draft ended I went from the feeling of 15 cups of coffee to the feeling of being at a funeral.
The despair didn’t last long though. A few seconds after the hurt set in I received a phone call from a New York number. It was head coach Eric Mangini asking me if I want to sign a contract to come and play for the team I had spent my life rooting for. I was officially a New York Jet!
The level of joy and happiness both my family and myself felt at that point completely drowned out the hurt of not being drafted. The next weekend I was on a flight to JFK airport for rookie mini camp. And the rest is history. But it all started with the NFL draft.