1992 NFL Draft
Leading up to the NFL Draft, current and former Steelers' players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, linebacker Levon Kirkland shared his story.
Levon Kirkland's Draft Day Memory:
"I thought I had to make an impression as far as the interviews were concerned at the combine. Not so much the 40s and the physical stuff. I thought I was okay with that. I knew what I could do. It was about making an impression, let them see who I am and express myself. One of the teams I really talked to was Pittsburgh. I was surrounded by the entire staff. I thought I gave a good interview. It was nerve wracking because it was the first time I ever had a job interview. We didn't get a lot of training then. You had to do it on your own. They asked questions, I gave honest answers. I tried not to be too overbearing about it, just let them see who I was. That is what happened.
"It felt like I was in the evidence room and the light was shining on me. I saw the other coaches, but really didn't see anybody. I was just answering questions. It was kind of intimidating for a kid from South Carolina. Never have been anywhere. To be in Indianapolis at that time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was daunting. It really was. It was fun too. I was thinking they must be pretty interested if everybody is sitting around. That was the only team that the full staff was there. I had other teams talk to me, but the Steelers had the full blitz. It seemed like they were interested in me the whole time.
"My combine experience was cool. It's funny because your whole football life you can't wait to get to the combine and then you get to the combine and you realize that man, this kind of stinks. This is not the greatest thing in the world. It really wasn't. You are exposed. Shirt off. Turn to the right, turn to the left. You are like cattle. From the time you get in college, if you want to get in the NFL, it's all about going to the combine. I got there, but I couldn't wait to leave.
"Pro days then were different too. Now you just have one day for a school pro day. It was different back in 1992. You basically got a phone call and teams were like can you work out for us. I did about six or seven pro days. You would get called to work out every two or three days, maybe two or three teams at a time. It was a bunch of days. You would get calls all of the time.
"You would get calls and had to answer them all. I was in a position I was trying to make it, so I worked out for everybody that called. It was fun but wore me out. The crazy thing is the Steelers didn't work me out but everyone else did. They followed me the whole time, but not at a pro day.
"Before the draft I made a visit to the Steelers. It was amazing. When I first came through the tunnel it was like wow. That was amazing for someone who never saw a building over five stories high. It was amazing just being in a city. When I got to Three Rivers Stadium, the first person I met on the team was Ernie Mills. We talked and got to know each other. I got to sit with a young Bill Cowher, in his first year of coaching. In my mind I was like I want to play for this team. Once I talked to Coach Cowher, I wanted to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I felt good about being with a young coach going in a new direction.
"On draft day, my brothers and I were sitting in front of the television. I remember the 38th pick, the Steelers had 10 minutes to pick. I went into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, and said they are going to pick me. I was so bold I went and sat at the kitchen table at my sister's house, by the phone and it rang.
"Back then we didn't have caller ID. You just picked up the phone and wished for the best. My niece picks it up. She was like it's for you Uncle Von. It was Tom Donahoe at first. He said we have the second-round pick coming up and we are considering picking you. And then he gives the phone to Charles Bailey, and you remember what he was like. He was like do y'all have cable in Lamar, South Carolina. I was like yeah, we do. He was like do you have ESPN. Then he said congratulations. Welcome to the black and gold. You are going to see your name on the ticker.
"I was the last person selected on that day, and the show was about to go off, so they didn't show highlights or anything. I didn't get a highlight. I didn't get strengths or weaknesses. They were switching to karate. My name got mentioned, but nothing else. I was thrilled though. I was going to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team I wanted to play for. It just felt right.
"My parents didn't know anything about football, especially my father. My mother watched games but didn't grasp it. It was just my brothers and sisters who were screaming when I gave them the thumbs up. I was so excited. My parents are in the background like what is going on. They weren't the typical parents, sitting on the couch, excited. They were low key. They just wanted me to be a good Christian and a good guy. They were happy and proud, but they were chill.
"I was happy to be with a team that believed in me. it was a dream come true. It really was."