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When They Don't Call Your Name

Posted Apr 20, 2012

Sendlein represents the other side of draft emotions

Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein, at his first minicamp (left) in 2007 and as a junior at the University of Texas (right), still stings from not being drafted.

Eventually, Lyle Sendlein’s parents left, with time still left in the 2007 draft and their son not picked.

His mother was mad. “I think they went to go drink margaritas,” Sendlein recalled, leaving he and his future wife to wait in his Austin home for the one call that never came.

The NFL draft is about dreams coming true, but sometimes, the dream doesn’t happen.

Hindsight allows Sendlein, the Cardinals’ starting center since 2008, to reconcile his hard weekend in April of 2007. The anchor of the offensive line at the University of Texas, Sendlein even won a national championship, and it meant nothing when went undrafted.

He’s carved out a good career in Arizona and can see the positives of coming through the hard way, but he is blunt about missing out in the draft: “I’m still bitter about it,” he said.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Sendlein said. “Disappointment is probably the easiest way to describe it, although now looking back it’s probably more of a blessing because of how well things have gone.

“You watch the draft and you dream of your name being called. Obviously I knew I wasn’t going to the podium. I guess I never quite got that sense of accomplishment other guys got, with the honor of being drafted.”

Getting drafted can be emotional. Running back Ryan Williams broke down as he sat in New York last year once his name was finally called in the second round. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, whose draft possibilities were a huge question in 2009, struggled to contain his tears of joy during a conference call with reporters after he was taken in the seventh round near the end of the draft.

“When we have an opportunity to talk with the kid and sense the emotions from him, to hear the noise in the background, mother’s crying, dad is screaming, it’s exciting,” Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said.

Even if the player knows it’s coming, it’s an adrenaline rush. On the opposite end of the 2007 draft perspective was tackle Levi Brown, the Cards’ No. 1 pick taken fifth overall. Brown was at home and figured to be a top 10 pick, although he didn’t know the Cards were interested in him (Miami was the spot most mocks put him, with the ninth overall pick).

When the Cards called Brown to tell him he was the choice, “there was crying, cheering, a lot of high-fives going on in the house that day. It was a great time,” Brown said.

That was Saturday. Sunday, Sendlein ended up walking his dog, just to clear his head. He didn’t want to leave much, because he didn’t know protocol, didn’t know if he missed a team’s call if that meant they wouldn’t take him.

But the phone calls he got weren’t what he wanted. Plenty of teams dialed him up, but every time Sendlein’s heart raced when he saw an out-of-state area code, it was just a team that wanted to discuss the possibility of signing him as an undrafted rookie.

His father, Robin, had been a second-round pick of the Vikings in 1981 and played eight years in the NFL. Lyle Sendlein hadn’t even been invited to the Scouting combine. He knew he wasn’t a hot prospect. But not to be picked at all? “That’s a humbling deal,” he said.

Eventually, Sendlein decided to come home – he grew up in Scottsdale, prepping at Chaparral High School – and sign with the Cardinals as a free agent. His goal was just to fight his way on to the practice squad and find a way to stick around the league.

Sendlein will begin his sixth year with the team this fall, entrenched not only as a starter but two-time captain. His draft status is a footnote. The same can’t be said for the hundreds of players who will be affected next week over the now-three days of the draft.

“I just know a lot of guys lives are going to change, a lot of dreams are going to come true,” Brown said.

But for some, those days will leave a little hurt. And maybe force a parent to find something else to do.

“They were feeling for me,” Sendlein said. “As a parent, you want it to work. All the months, all the years of work, and it all comes down to one afternoon watching the TV and waiting by the phone and it doesn’t happen.”

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