The draft was nearing its end in the seventh round when General Manager Steve Keim made the call to the 10th of 11 picks to let him know he was going to be a Cardinal.
Michael Dogbe, a defensive lineman from Temple, could barely get any words out in response. The tears and emotion were quickly apparent, even through the phone line.
“I don’t know if I’ve heard a player more emotional,” Keim said afterward. “It kind of makes you sit back for a second and it reminds guys like myself and Kliff (Kingsbury) and Michael Bidwill … (that) regardless of whether you are the first pick or you’re a seventh-round pick, this is what it’s all about, making a kid’s dream.”
Weeks later, deep into the Cardinals’ offseason work, Dogbe acknowledged all the normal reasons why the tears flowed. The hard work he had put in. Overcoming injuries. The joy of going to the NFL.
But for Dogbe, it was also about not losing what had become such a big part of his identity.
“I love the sport,” Dogbe said. “I’m very passionate about it. I’ve been playing since the fifth grade. I take it seriously. I’ve devoted my whole life to it. It’s part of my lifestyle, being a football player. It’s kind of scary, after college, are you going to make it? Are you not? I don’t want to stop playing this game, so when I got that call … all I needed was a chance.”
Emotions on draft day aren’t unique. From the Cardinals, it was difficult for 2013 third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu to hold it together on his conference call after he was chosen, given the circumstances it took for him to get to the NFL. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling also had to talk through his tears after he was taken in the seventh round in 2009.
Dogbe led the Owls’ defensive line with seven sacks, three forced fumbles and 12½ tackles for loss as a senior. But he was not invited to the Scouting combine, and had quad and MCL injuries as a junior, preventing him from building up many career stats.
Still, the NFL was really the only goal of the 6-foot-3, 284-pounder.
“I just knew in the back of my head that’s where I was meant to be,” Dogbe said.
The Cardinals are still seeking defensive line depth. The major question mark around Robert Nkemdiche, both because he is coming off an ACL tear and now with news of an arrest for speeding, means the Cards need to find players behind veterans Corey Peters, Darius Philon, Rodney Gunter and third-round pick Zach Allen.
There is work to do. Although Dogbe believes his role would be similar to what he did at Temple, the techniques he must learn – and the speed of the game, even in the interior line – still leave him with strides to make before he could find his way into the rotation.
“Whether I do something right or wrong, I just want to give it my all so I can look back and say I did everything I could,” Dogbe said.
And if Dogbe were to make the final 53-man roster? He admitted the emotion would hit him all over again.
“It’s refreshing to draft a young man who is so appreciative,” Keim said.