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'Twas the Night Before the Draft

Paris Johnson Jr., Trey McBride reminisce on emotions before they were picked

Paris Johnson Jr. makes sure his new Cardinals cap fits just right right after he was selected in the 2023 draft.
Paris Johnson Jr. makes sure his new Cardinals cap fits just right right after he was selected in the 2023 draft.

When Paris Johnson Jr. was a teenager, he frequently envisioned draft day. Whether he was playing video games, hanging out in his room, or even in the shower, Johnson would become emotional any time he visualized commissioner Roger Goodell walking towards the podium to say an NFL team selects "Paris Johnson Jr. out of Ohio."

Yet, when he actually got to the night before his draft, there weren't many emotions.

"I was going to bed early," Johnson said. "There was no need to stay up because I wanted tomorrow to show up. I wasn't really nervous, and I felt like I knew my name was going to get called."

After some Cardinals' maneuvering from No. 3 to No. 12 and all the way back to No. 6, Johnson's dream came true as he became the team's 2023 first-round pick. From the bear hug between himself and Commissioner Roger Goodell to the sheer jubilation in the green room, the event was "something I've played in my mind so many times."

Not every draftee has had or will have the same experience as Johnson. Draft prospects in Detroit and throughout the country will encounter those emotions on Wednesday night.

Cardinals tight end Trey McBride vividly recalled how he was feeling the night before the 2022 draft. It was hard to sleep, so he went out with friends to take his mind off the draft.

"You're just so excited, eager to find out where you're going to be and what your life is going to look like in the next 48 hours," McBride said. "It was very stressful and something that challenges you to sleep."

Each time the families and players check the clock, the seconds tick down until dreams can come to fruition and trajectory of organizations can change. McBride was one of those players that sat by their phone, hoping for a call during the first round of the draft.

The phone never rang.

"I didn't get drafted the first day and I was embarrassed," McBride said. "I remember the feeling I had when I didn't get drafted and then I had to wait until the next day for that phone call."

McBride didn't have to wait much longer. He was selected in the second round with the 55th overall pick. Surrounded by his family, the joy took over.

"I remember the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders," McBride said. "It was the coolest thing, and I will remember that day for the rest of my life. I just saw the video of me getting drafted and it brought back so many memories."

Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort will have the chance to fulfill other player's dream on Thursday. Yet even though he's faced with a massive decision sitting at No. 4 and No. 27, Ossenfort already told his staff that they'll be out of the draft room at a decent hour on Wednesday.

"I hope to be doing dinner with my girls," Ossenfort said. "I think at that point, we're going to take a step back and try to get a good night's sleep and see what comes our way on Thursday."

Twenty-four hours before Ossenfort dialed up Johnson and turned in the card to make him an Arizona Cardinal, before he called it a night, the offensive tackle got a glimpse at the stage he's dreamed of walking across since he was a kid.

"I got to see how they were going to set up the red carpet, so I was already walking on it and taking pictures and stuff on it and I got to look down at the venue which was kind of cool," Johnson said. "Since I was 5 years old, I always knew I was going to be (at the draft). It was like, 'OK, it's time, we're here. I've been counting on this and I've been working for this.' It was a happy moment all around the night before."