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, former Steelers guard Kendall Simmons, the Steelers No. 1 pick in 2002 out of Auburn, shares his memories.
I went to the combine and I was extremely nervous about it. My agent and trainer did a really good job of simulating everything to expect. It helped me be more comfortable with the surroundings. They went through all of the mock interviews and talking to the coaches and general managers so they did a good job with it.
I didn’t want to do anything to embarrass myself. Coming out of college I felt like there were some questions because of my medical history. That was something I hoped my workouts would clear up and it wouldn’t be held against me. I wanted them to see that I gave it everything I’ve got and bounced back from injuries and kept on going.
I can remember interviewing with a lot of teams at the combine, and vaguely remember interviewing with the Steelers, but am not sure. I was in awe of being around anybody in that professional setting. You sit there and you are talking to the coaches and my agent told me don’t hide anything. There is nothing to hide, they already know everything. It’s best to go in there and be straight forward and honest and it will pay dividends. I just tried to do that. I tried to keep it light hearted and it seemed like if they were on the playful side I played off of that.
I went to San Francisco and Houston for visits before the draft. It made me feel like when I came to Auburn on my official visit. I remember going to San Francisco and seeing Dana Stubblefield and Bryant Young lifting and working out. That was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.
Then to have the opportunity to go to Houston and it was one of their first years in the league, seeing the stadium and some of the tests they put us through were different. The one I remember the most is a reactionary test. It was using your peripheral vision, something you really need for an offensive lineman seeing blitzes come off the edge. It was a big board with lights and you had to stay focused on it. You had to keep your eyes straight and watch for stuff coming out of the corner and reach for the dots, doing different things like that. They tested flexibility, memorizing stuff, and talking about plays. That was one of the most intriguing ones I went through.
I wasn’t nervous the night before draft. My family started coming in and we were having a party. Half of the guys from Auburn came in, people from my hometown came. I was looking forward to having the opportunity to possibly slide into the first. I wasn’t going to be disappointed if I didn’t. My agent said you could be in the top five, but if not at least be an early second. The later it got in the first round I was still excited because I had the opportunity to play at the next level.
During the draft you want to be cool and everyone wants to talk to you, but they keep their distance because they see you pacing back and forth. It seemed like the first round, the first 10 or 15 picks went really fast, and then it seemed like everything slowed down. Everybody starts to get antsy. You don’t want to be rude to family and guests, but I was nervous and just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to talk. It was a nerve racking experience.
When the call came from the Steelers, I heard the phone ring and stood by a door because I knew in that area the phone would work and it was Coach (Bill) Cowher. I made everybody get quiet and everyone was looking at me wondering if this is it. He started talking and I moved and my cell phone dropped the call. Oh my God, let me tell you I have never been that scared in my life because I knew he thought I hung up on him. There was no way he was calling me back. I didn’t think I had any chance of him calling me back. I was like that was Pittsburgh and I was flipping out. I was thinking what is going on with my phone. You can do this at any time but not right now. Within a few seconds he called right back and it was Kevin Colbert and he started laughing. He put Coach Cowher on the phone and I apologized and he said it was okay. They told me they were going to pick me with the 30th pick in the first round. When I held my hand up the whole place went crazy. My boys trying throwing me in the pond and chasing me down. That was one of the most exciting days I ever had.
I didn’t have a clue where Pittsburgh was. I am telling the truth. If you would have told me it was in Pennsylvania I wouldn’t have believed you. I didn’t know at all and I was just excited. I don’t remember talking to anybody from Pittsburgh at the combine. I thought I was going to get drafted by Tennessee or the 49ers because those were the two teams that showed the most interest, and Houston showed some. When Pittsburgh called, and I made it into the first, I was so excited.
I completely went into la-la land after being drafted. The rest of that day went by so fast. The next thing I remember was flying into Pittsburgh and coming in from the airport and to me one of the most beautiful sights was when you come through the tunnel and you see the city at night. I was thinking this is amazing. I always brought family in to see that afterwards. It was so cool.
It went from the night of the draft to coming through the tunnel. Once I got to the there the first person I met was Kordell Stewart. I was like wow, this is Kordell Stewart. Then I saw Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward and I was in absolute awe. The first couple of years I remember thinking I am in the same locker room with these guys.
Getting drafted by the Steelers was like signing with Auburn. I never thought I would have a chance to play major college football. I just enjoyed playing sports. Then going to the NFL, I didn’t realize for a long time it would become a reality.