The NFL Draft can be the best of times or the worst of times.
It’s a place where dreams are granted and hopes are dashed. Everyone with an NFL locker has a unique story about their draft day. An elite few were fortunate enough to walk the red carpet and sit in the green room. Others watched their names get called from the comfort of their homes alongside friends and families. And then some spent the draft with their eyes glued to the TV and their hands clenching their phones, figuring out new ways to relieve the stress that comes with picks passing by and their names not being called. The Cardinals have players who experienced all three. With draft day approaching next week, here are their stories:
I. The Day Before
WR LaRON BYRD (UDFA 2011, Miami): I got a couple calls from a couple head coaches (the day before the draft). It was like, “Hopefully everything works out this weekend and hopefully we can make you a part of this organization.” So I was ecstatic. I didn’t even really tell family. I don’t like being disappointed.
QB CARSON PALMER (No. 1, 1st round 2003, USC): My whole family was in New York City. I had only been to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony the one time before, so I was very excited to go and we had a great time. We went to good dinners and had a good time hanging out.
BYRD: I had about 10 calls the day before saying if I’m available at this point, available at that point they’re going to take me. (It started) 11-12ish in the evening, East Coast time.
PALMER: You’re working most of the time. You’re going from event to event. New York Stock Exchange. There’s a lot going on. A lot of media requests but when you weren’t working we were having a good time and enjoying New York City. I knew I was going one because I had already signed (with the Cincinnati Bengals) before the draft. I was in a different spot than a lot of guys, there wasn’t a lot of stress or pressure. I knew what was coming up. I had a blast. I had a great time.”
II. Draft Day
CB PATRICK PETERSON (No. 5, 1st round 2011, LSU): That morning, (I woke up) not knowing what’s going to happen later on that day. Just leading
LB O’BRIEN SCHOFIELD (No. 130, 4th round 2010, Wisconsin): Man, I was nervous. I had just tore my ACL so I was home with my family and a couple of my friends from college and it was even worse because that was the year the draft went to three days so you had to wait a lot longer.
T BOBBY MASSIE (No. 112, 4th round 2012, Ole Miss): Had a big cookout at home. All my family was there. And it started to get to pick 25, everybody in the house looking at me. Man, why you looking at me for? I ain’t got no control over it. But then Day Two went by and I’m still sitting on the couch.
DT DAVID CARTER (No. 184, 6th round, 2011, UCLA): We watched the whole draft because my brother (Chris Carter, who was chosen by Pittsburgh) was supposed to get drafted earlier. He was expected to get drafted in the third round but he dropped down to the fifth round.
BYRD: The way my family does it on weekends, we just barbeque or have a cookout. Chill, watch TV on the weekends. I didn’t want a big party. (We had) lasagna, crawfish and bits, gumbo, BBQing, space walks for the kids outside. Just a typical weekend in the Byrd house.
CB BRYAN McCANN (UFA 2010, SMU): My agent had rented a suite in a hotel so we went up to a hotel. Had the two rooms on either side and the big common room with the big TVs in the middle. Probably, consistent 30-40 people.
PETERSON: Going into the green room, seeing a lot of guys who you played against in college, seeing guys playing on TV and all those things. But just being in the green room on draft day and hearing all the guys names called and just knowing when you’re name is going to be called, it’s a life-changing moment.
MASSIE: It’s pretty nerve racking because you ain’t got no control over where you’re going. You’re just listening to what you hear the announcers talk about on TV and what your agent’s telling you. It’s nerve racking.
McCANN: I had gotten a call that Saturday morning from the Cowboys and they were saying they were interested. I didn’t know if they were going to draft me or not. And then just sitting around, fifth round, sixth round, seventh round, you’re getting calls from teams, ‘Hey we like you, we might take you with this next pick.”
SCHOFIELD: I had no idea really where I was going to go at. I heard anywhere from three to six and possibly even being a free agent. It was more I was just hoping to get drafted, it didn’t matter where.
BYRD: I definitely started getting concerned in the third round because one of the teams I had talked to told me I was going to go in the third round. When the fourth round came I started pacing because I got a call from the Vikings and I took my visit up there. They had two picks in the fourth round and they said they were going to take a receiver with one of them. We had like four guys up there: me, Justin Blackmon, Alshon Jeffery, Stephen Hill. Just us up there and coach told us, ‘We’re taking somebody from this group.’ And by time the fourth round came, those boys were gone. I was the only one left and they took other receivers. That’s about the only time throughout the whole draft that I kinda felt like disappointed.”
C LYLE SENDLEIN (UDFA 2007, Texas): I was in Austin. My parents left probably midway into the sixth round. And I was just sitting there with my girlfriend that’s now my wife. I stopped watching it after a while. You drive yourself crazy. I took my dogs out on a walk.
III. The Calls
CARTER: The Cardinals, they called me first. They were like, ‘Hey were thinking about drafting you in the sixth round so get ready.’ I didn’t want to tell anybody cause I was like what if they don’t draft me so I’ll just wait until my name goes across the TV.
MCCANN: Five different teams were calling that day saying, ‘We like you. We might take you. Keep watching, keep your phone on you. I was sitting and they’d come up, and sitting there with the phone and waiting, waiting, waiting and they’d pick somebody else up.
SCHOFIELD: Coach (Pete) Carroll from Seattle, he had called me and told me that they were going to get me and I was like, ‘OK.’ The pick came and they didn’t get me. So I was like, ‘Alright, OK, cool.’
MASSIE: Actually they called (Cardinals teammate) Senio (Kelemete) before they called me and told him they were going to either take him or a tackle. They ended up taking me. (The call) was about two picks ahead. They called me and said if I was available when they were up to pick they were going to pick me.
BYRD: I kept getting calls saying, ‘Hey we just got out of a draft meeting. We’re looking to take you with this pick.’
SENDLEIN: Must’ve been mid-sixth round and I started getting real anxious and a lot of people are calling about undrafted free agents. So every call I was like, ‘Oh, well, this could be it,’ and then it’d be like ‘Hey, were not going to pick you but we think…’ So after eight or 10 of those, I was obviously really frustrated. I guess at some point it might be better to not be drafted late so you can pick your situation.
BYRD: After the seventh round the phone just starts blowing up. Calling like crazy. Different teams, ‘We really want you.’ And I’m telling my agent, ‘If you really want me you could’ve took me.’ But this is a business. I had like 17 offers.
SCHOFIELD: Then (former Cardinals general manager) Rod Graves had called me and said, ‘I think we’re going to pick you up.’ So by this time I didn’t want to get my hopes up because of what happened with Seattle. He was just like, ‘Stay by the phone.’ He hung up and he literally called me back in like 30 seconds and said, ‘We’re about to draft you.
IV. The Moment
PETERSON: My grandma was sitting to the right and my mom was sitting to my left. And my phone was sitting in the middle, sitting in the chair. I felt the phone vibrate and the first thing I did, I tapped my mom. I saw a 602 or 480 number area code. I was like man, ‘I’ve never seen this area code before. Who could this be?’ She’s like, ‘Are you going to answer it?’ I was like, OK, yeah.’ So I pick up the phone and it was (former Cardinals) coach Ken Whisenhunt. I said, ‘Mom, it’s Arizona, going (to) pick (me) 5. She was so excited.”
MASSIE: I was at home sitting on the sofa aside my mom and she started crying and hugging on me while I was talking to Whiz and the GM.
CARTER: I was shocked and then I was like, ‘Guys, I just got drafted. They called me back a second time. I just got drafted by the Cardinals.’ And they were like, ‘What? Oh my gosh.’ And that’s when everybody passed out. Like really passed out because I wasn’t expected to get drafted at all. I was expected to be a free agent so that was pretty much a blessing to get drafted. My girlfriend at the time, my mom passed out, everybody. My aunt she said, ‘Oh my goodness. Hallelujah.’ We had church service in the house that day. It was kinda funny.
SCHOFIELD: I was like, ‘I have to go the last day,’ so I sat down and watched it with my family. It was pretty early. I wasn’t waiting that long and then I saw my name go across the screen and my family went crazy and everybody was in tears. I still have it on my DVR.
PETERSON: The feelings can’t explain it. Once your name gets called it’s like some type of sensation that runs through your body. Walking through the curtains and you’re seeing all the guys that are handing you a jersey and your hat, it was like this is the real deal. You’re putting on your team hat and you’re going out there in front of the Radio City Music Hall, in front of the thousands of people. Having the opportunity to go out there and shake (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell’s hand and for him to greet us into the NFL was definitely huge.
SENDLEIN: It happened to be disappointing because you always want to get drafted. It’s a big dream for every football player to hear your name called and when it doesn’t get called it kinda stings.