Leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, current and former Steelers’ players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, starting from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, Steelers tackle
I was actually a late invite to the combine. The combine experience is stressful. You don’t know who is looking, who is watching, who is interested and who is not. You are always looking over your shoulder making sure you are doing everything right. There were a couple of times I would be filling out paper work and I got calls from numbers I never saw before and you didn’t know what was going on. I think the people at the combine do a great job of keeping you off balance. A lot of it is mental and it’s how you handle it, respond and react that is a key element of it. It was a great experience, but you knew if you want to get to where you want to be, and for me that was the National Football League, you have to go through some things.
You know the coaches are watching you at the combine, but you have to focus on the task at hand. You have two opportunities to run your best time. You have to really focus in at that time. It’s like playing a football game. You can’t worry about the fans in the stands. You have to take care of the assignment and what is going on out there on the field.
I had several informal interviews, including one with the Steelers. The only formal interview I had was with the Oakland Raiders. You never know who is interested. Some people talk to you longer than others. Some people just ask you a couple of clear cut questions and a couple of other guys try to get to know you. I met with Coach (Sean) Kugler for a minute, but I spent more time talking with (offensive assistant) Shaun Sarrett.
I took part in the pro day at SMU and it was great not to have to run the 40-yard dash again or do any of those drills because I did them at the combine. There were a lot of coaches and scouts there. Joe Greene, who scouts that area, was there from the Steelers. For me that was more intense than the combine because I have an actual Hall of Famer in my midst. It was interesting. It made it fun. I just had to do the offensive line drills again and bench again. Other than that it was the pro day experience. I got to see what my teammates needed to do and encourage and push them. I just enjoyed sitting around waiting my turn because I did a lot of it at the combine.
I didn’t have a lot of time to worry or be nervous about the draft because my dad had me doing stuff during it. He had me out there getting parts for a car. He was putting a transmission in an old Toyota. He had me busy to keep my mind off of it. I didn’t keep up with the draft until the later part of the last day.
I was at my apartment in Dallas for the last part of the draft. I did the normal stuff and kept it simple. I am not the type of guy to throw a draft party. That is not me. I just went on with my normal life. I was by myself at my apartment. I come from ordinary people. We are common people. My parents kept it as ordinary as can be.
In the seventh round calls started to come in about signing as a free agent. You take it for what it is right there. They are selling their organization to you in a short time frame. I had quite a few teams that called as we hit the seventh round because they ran out of picks. You are taking the calls, listening to the coaches, listening to what your agent has to say. You are just taking it for what it is. I had faith in God that I was going to get drafted. I didn’t know where or when. Once I got the call from the Steelers it was a great night. The call from the Steelers felt so different than the other teams. I can’t even explain it. It was awesome to hear the Steelers on the phone. It becomes a blur, but I think the first person I spoke with was (scout) Phil Kreidler and from there it was Coach (Mike) Tomlin, Coach (Todd) Haley, Coach Kugler, Mr. (Art) Rooney and then to the media. It was a night to remember. It’s one of those things you never want to forget. You have the exhilarating feeling that you have been drafted. For me I knew there was a lot on my shoulders because of where I was drafted.
I called my parents. My dad was still at the shop working and he put my mom on three way and they just told me congratulations. They told me to take care of phone calls and call back later. They heard the news straight from me.
I had hundreds of texts and Facebook comments and calls and voicemails afterwards. It was an achieving night. It was the same night as our football sports banquet. It was a great night. A couple of us got drafted so it was a lot of fun. The work you put in, you felt it. It was a big feat.