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Blanchflower: 'It finally pays off'

Posted Apr 23, 2015

Tight end Rob Blanchflower shares his draft day story.

Leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, Steelers players and coaches will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. And in some cases, share what it was like when neither of those things happened. In this installment, Rob Blanchflower shares his story.

Rob Blanchflower – Seventh Round – 2014 – Massachusetts

“The combine is set up for you to fail, up early, to bed late, a lot of interviews. I didn’t participate in the drills because of an injury. It was strictly interviews. It’s stressful because of the lack of sleep, you don’t know what is going on, and it’s very hectic. Overall it was a great experience, something I can say I did and not everyone has that chance.

“It’s a little nerve wracking. I had a lot of experience in interviews because I had a lot of jobs and have done interviews before I knew about the possibility of getting drafted. I was a partial scholarship guy at a 1-AA school so it was my dream to play in the NFL and I had every intention of doing it, but I always had a backup plan. Going into my junior year I had a few internships under my belt. I worked three years at campus at a job. I always had jobs. It was my dream and I was shooting for it, but I have seen guys do that and not have a backup plan. I wanted other opportunities available.

“I had been through the interview process, but not at that scale because it wasn’t as important a career move. A lot of intimidating guys at the combine, people you looked up to your whole life sitting in the room asking you very personal questions. It was intimidating at first, but you ease into it. They want to get to know you, can you think on your feet, there is a lot of test taking. Overall it was a great experience.

“Right before the draft I had a pro day where I performed. I wasn’t 100 percent and most of the teams knew that. I went out and gave my best. I didn’t blow them away, but I competed. I went out there and gave it my all.

“I saw (Steelers tight ends) Coach James Daniel at the combine and he came to my pro day. I met a few other position coaches throughout the process. I went to the Senior Bowl for a day to meet some people and take tests, surveys. I met people there and at the combine. I got to show teams who I was as a person.

“The first day of the draft I was just hanging out with my folks. I didn’t expect to go. I knew if I was going to get drafted it was going to be the last day, if at all. I just spent time hanging out with my family, hoping to be with a team the following week. I got a few phone calls the first day with teams asking how I was feeling, if anyone talked to me. It’s a good feeling knowing you are on the radar. It makes you feel good. It’s nerve wracking because you don’t know where you are going to be. Being a family guy it was nerve wracking knowing the next day you are gone and don’t know when you are coming back. I watched it that first day, but didn’t put much weight on it. It was more a learning opportunity. A lot of guys I trained with got picked so it was good to see them go.

“I got a lot of calls the second day. It’s a pretty intense experience because you get so many calls and everyone says they like you, everyone says you fit in. At the end of the day you just need one team. It’s exciting, feels good to be on the radar, but being up in the air is kind of nerve wracking.

“I think every guy has a story where a team says they want to take you and they don’t. Position coaches usually fight for who they want, but they don’t have the final say. I had a bunch of calls the last day. It was a good feeling knowing some teams wanted you. But it’s what the general manager, head coach and owners want.  

“At one point my parents were upstairs watching television and I went downstairs to watch by myself. I wanted to separate myself from it. It was loud upstairs. I wanted to get away from the commotion. I had a lot of phone calls at the end. People telling me if I didn’t go in the round they wanted me as a free agent.

“Luckily I got the call from Coach (Mike) Tomlin and it’s something I will remember the rest of my life. It was like I was at the top of a rollercoaster and going down and my stomach was dropping. It was a great feeling.

“When he called me I was on the phone with someone else and I didn’t know the number. My agent texted and told me pick up the next call and I did. Coach said Rob we want to take you in the seventh round. I said absolutely and thanked him. I spoke to James Daniel and Mr. (Art) Rooney and about 40 seconds later I heard everyone yell upstairs and knew it was official.  

“It’s a long, hard process. When the day comes and you are rewarded for it, it’s special. It finally pays off. It’s a teaching moment that tells you hard work does pay off.”