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Leal's heart dropped when his phone rang

Leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft, 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, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal gives his take.

DeMarvin Leal - 2022 NFL Draft - 3rd Round

Going to the combine and getting to experience it fully after the class before me didn't was special. Just the whole process of doing it was a blessing. It was actually a very good experience. It's all about football. It's not about what I did on the field anymore, or what my film looks when you get there. No, you have to run the 40-yard dash, do the bench press, all of that stuff. It just puts you in a different mindset.

The combine can be a little bit exhausting because of the quick turnarounds that you have. I feel like college, depending on what college you go to, prepares you for what's coming next. College itself is a 24-hour busy day. It wasn't that much of a difference having meetings and workouts and stretching, just preparing for basically a whole game.

It is the biggest job interview. You have to be able to talk. You have to be able to show who you are and just prove yourself as a whole. You have to prove that you're meant for it, that this is the job that you want.

The interviews are all different. Some teams try to make it a little bit more stressful than what it actually is. But you really are just talking about yourself. You talk about the game that you love, what you desire from it and what's your why and how you're going to do it the next how many years you are in the league. That's how I took it and prepared for it. The questions that may come about, just talk about what you love most and how you want to do it.

I met with the Steelers at the combine. It was actually a really good meeting. I felt like all my little meetings at the combine were good. It was in and out, introduce myself and talked for a little bit and felt like they got a good whiff of who I am. They came back for my pro day and God blessed me and I got drafted by the Steelers.

The pro day is great because it's in your backyard. It's a little bit different from being all the way out there in Indianapolis. You have all the fans there as well. It's more personal. It's more family like. You've got all your loved ones there. It gives you a little bit more confidence. It gives you a little bit more boost. You're also on a field that you've played on numerous times, practiced on numerous times, and there's the atmosphere. At the end of the day, it's ball.

I met with (Steelers defensive line coach) Karl Dunbar at my pro day. That is when I kind of knew the Steelers is where I would end up. We had a nice dinner. He just wanted to pick my brain, challenging me a little bit. Just wanted to see where I was, what I can bring to the table. It was so valuable.

My family all showed up for my pro day. My cousins, mom, dad, little sister, brother, friends. They know the importance of being behind me or beside me when it comes to encouraging me. That meant a lot to me. They were there for me, just like they were there for games over the years.

Those people and more were with me for the draft. I had my small circle of family members and friends. I was in San Antonio, Texas, which is where I'm from. We had an Airbnb out there and had everybody pull up and were just waiting for the time to tick. It was a little stressful at first. At the end of the day, it was all about God's time, which is what my family kept telling me. They let me know I was going to end up where I was meant to be.

I was sitting there waiting for my phone to ring, and before I got the call from the Steelers, I had a friend that called me probably three minutes before that. He almost got yelled at. I had to remember where I was there. It was just real stressful. You get a call that you've been waiting for it, and you answer the phone and it's your friend. My reaction was what are you doing calling me right now?

The next call came, and I saw the location of where this call is coming from. I'm thinking, it's time. I answer it and my heart drops with excitement. It was really exciting. It was this unbelievable moment. You feel like you only see those things on television and for it to actually be happening, it being real, it was this unbelievable moment.

I just knew it was going to be the Steelers. I already had my hat on and everything. I talked to Mike Tomlin. I talked to Teryl Austin, Karl Dunbar, Denzel Martin. Then I got texts from Cam Heyward, Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt and more. I felt like I was going home. It showed me that this is more than football with the Steelers. There's also a brotherhood. It's a standard and tradition that was held and they are keeping the standard going.

After I hung up the phone, there were tears all over, especially from my parents. I tried not to shed many, but a few came out.