The combine is a pretty stressful process for the player. Fortunately for me I didn’t have to work out because I was rehabbing from surgery and that eliminated a lot of the stress. I still had to go through the physicals and the interview process and it can be a stressful situation as well.
The interviews can be a little bit intimidating being a college player and stepping into a room with the people you see on TV all of the time. Some teams are pretty laid back and easy going and it’s an easy chat. Other teams are more straightforward and try to ask you the tougher questions. At the end of the day you try to be yourself and give people a true representation of who you are.
The Steelers were the first interview I had. I was intimidated to go through it, the first one being the Steelers and Coach (Bill) Cowher. But it was probably one of the easiest ones I had. It was laid back, easy conversation and a pretty enjoyable interview for me.
After the combine, teams are allowed to bring you in for a visit and I went to Pittsburgh, Tampa and Carolina. I think one of the main reasons teams had me in for a visit was to recheck my progress from the injury. When I went to Pittsburgh I just got checked and met with Coach Cowher and it was a pretty easy day.
I didn’t know what to think about the interest teams showed. I tried to keep an open mind through the whole process and not get my heart set on one place in particular because the whole time everyone told me you never know what people are thinking, don’t read into what they are telling you. You don’t know if they are showing interest to throw other teams off. I took that to heart. Fortunately for me I was rehabbing from my injury so I tried to put my focus on that and realize I had no control where I ended up. I just wanted to be as healthy as I could be when I got there. I had a good feeling about being here, I felt like they liked me as a player and I certainly would have been happy if they picked me here.
I was at my apartment at school for the draft. I worked out that day and came home and watched the draft. I didn’t have anybody call me. My parents were with me. The spring game was that day at school. One of my roommates was also coming out for the draft and the others were playing in the spring game. We just had the television on and grilled out.
I wasn’t expecting to go high in the first round so that was the easy part. I didn’t realize back then how long the first round took. I felt like it was forever. All of my friends who were in for the spring game went to the game and then came home. I was still watching, not closely, but had my eye on what was going on.
When the phone finally rang I don’t think I knew it was a Pittsburgh area code. But when it rang I just picked it up. There were some teams I thought I could go to in the 20s, but when they passed me up I thought maybe Pittsburgh will draft me. I got the call a pick or two before they were on the clock. It came before I expected, I don’t remember exactly when but I know they weren’t on the clock.
I can’t remember exactly what was said. I went outside into the hallway where it was quiet. They asked if I was healthy and they said okay, just wait on the line, so I did. It was just a few seconds. I had a good feeling it was going to happen. The teams right before them hadn’t showed much interest in me so I didn’t think they would pick me. Coach (Bill) Cowher got on the line and told me they picked me. I was excited. At that point it was an answer to a question that had been lingering for a few months as to where the next step in life was going to take me. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about things, I was just anxious to get to my new city and get to work. Initially I didn’t have time to give thought to what a special organization it was, but over the next few days I realized how fortunate I was to come to a great team and a great organization.
Everyone was excited. By that time some people had gathered so that was cool. It started with nobody, but then people did come. It was more a relief to have an answer to the question of where I would be. The things you wonder about for the three to four months that lead up to it are answered. Then you just start planning for what will happen after that.