Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson
By JEFF CARLSON
Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes The QB Blast column here at JoeBucsFan.com. Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as an analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages via his company, America’s Best Quarterback.
Today, Carlson shares his draft day story from 1989, and explains why the NFL Draft is an uneasy time for most players.
“Draft Day” and Mel Kiper, Jr. will hit prime-time television for the very first time this year, and every team and fan is looking forward to what could happen to make their team better. The extravaganza in New York has grown so big it has been extended to three days.
At this point, the draft eligible players have done all they can do at the NFL combine, their school’s “pro days” and/or individual workouts, and now are anxiously waiting to find out how their life’s dream and destiny will play out.
Some will have their dreams come true; others will be disappointed and embarrassed that they didn’t get drafted where they thought they should.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, there will be two specific groups watching the draft: Group 1 will be the wide-eyed rookies waiting to be drafted, making their families proud and fulfilling personal dreams. Group 2 will be current players. This group will be watching their teams draft with a wary eye on their own positions and hoping the team doesn’t draft anyone that could take their careers away.
In 1989, I was in “Group 1” (excited) and was a first-day pick, back when only the first part of the first round was on television. Out of Division I-AA Weber State, I was projected anywhere from the 3rd to the 7th round, so the phone call was going to be later on that Saturday, after Troy Aikman was the first pick and got an $11 million deal (Tony Mandarich was 2nd, Barry Sanders, 3rd , Derrick Thomas, 4th and Deion Sanders was 5th). This year, Sam Bradford, or whoever turns out to be No. 1 is looking at nearly $70 million. The money will be much, much bigger than in ’89, but I don’t think the careers of this year’s top players will match up with those four out of five Hall-of-Famers.
The Phone Call
Knowing I could be waiting until Sunday for a call didn’t stop the nerves from flowing whenever the phone rang in my college apartment. That was before cell phones and I didn’t even have call-waiting, so any call tied up the line and might have meant a missed call from a team.
The rumor was that if a team couldn’t get a hold of you, they would pass you right up and leave you on the draft board. It probably wasn’t true, but it made me quite snippy when friends kept calling to find out if anything had happened yet.
Waiting all day with my parents and girlfriend was definitely long. And following a late afternoon nap, the Los Angeles Rams called. I asked the personnel guy on the phone where they were in the draft. He said, “The fourth round, and if the Seahawks don’t take you with the next pick, we are going to draft you.”
Within seconds, he said something like, “Congratulations, you are now a Los Angeles Ram, hold on to speak with Coach Robinson (John Robinson).”
After finishing up a courteous call with my new coach, I punched the ceiling of my apartment, my biggest dream just come true and it was with my hometown team to boot. It was an awesome feeling, justifying all of the work that I had put in for many years, and it stuck it to the former girlfriend that had told me a few years back to give up dreaming.
Outside of family issues like a wedding and babies, this will probably remain the biggest day of my life, because there was such a long focus to be the best in high school, college and hopefully just get a chance to touch the NFL had now been accomplished. And it wasn’t just a free agent try-out, like most opportunities that guys from Weber State had always gotten, but as a legitimate pick, the highest in over 20 years from the school.
On the other side of the coin, USC quarterback Rodney Peete, the Heisman Trophy runner-up was hosting a draft party at a ritzy hotel in Los Angeles and wasn’t too happy to see me get drafted a couple of rounds ahead of him. The dichotomy of draft day makes one QB the happiest guy in the world, while at the very same moment, absolutely ruins another’s day.
Majority Of Players In “Group 2″
Remember back just a few years when Alex Smith went No. 1 to the 49ers and that caused a national television free-fall for Aaron Rogers, probably the most uncomfortable hours of his life, until the Packers finally picked him up late in the first round.
After that first experience in the NFL, every year after that I fell into Group 2 on draft day.
Outside of the few superstars in the league, whose positions are virtually guaranteed, the vast majority of players will be hoping their position doesn’t get upgraded with a top pick.
As far as the Bucs are concerned, I just heard a radio commercial promoting current players that will be at the stadium for the team’s draft party. Those players that are pressured into showing up for the gig will probably be sporting smiles on their faces, but inside they will secretly take sighs of relief every time the Bucs’ pick goes by and there isn’t a new player at their position. Or they may have some very uncomfortable moments with fans, trying to chuckle about the great potential of the new guy on the team.
All players know that professional sports is about competition, but the business side of the game says the higher the investment in the new guy, the more opportunity he will get — or simply be given the position.
The draft was an incredible experience as a rookie coming out of college, but every year after that, it wasn’t something to get too excited about, since it could mean so much to the future of your career. So the draft may be exciting for some, like the GM, coaches and fans, but for most of the current players around the league, there isn’t all that much to look forward to this week.