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Steinberg: NFL Draft is special

April 28, 2012

What was a private, low key NFL Draft 30 years ago, has become a three-day sponsored and promoted Ramadan of the annual player selection.

What you didn't see was the excruciating tension the college players and their friends and families are experiencing in homes across the country. I have been fortunate to have represented over 60 first-round draft picks, eight of whom were the very first pick in the first round. I have also spent almost 40 years sharing this penultimate moment of pressure followed by joy at players' homes and in New York.

It takes a village to create a potential pro football player. The players represent the hopes and dreams of Pop Warner, high school and college coaches and family, friends and community that have been involved in the player's evolution. This provides a large rooting section that descends on an athletes' home to share the unique night. Those players judged to be high first-round picks are invited to New York with family members. They take a boat trip around Manhattan, are treated to Broadway shows and parties, and take part in the extraordinary pre-draft television and sponsor promotions.

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The players in New York sit at tables in a room just off stage where cameras broadcast every emotion and detail. I spent weeks prior to the draft interacting with teams at the top of the draft attempting to discern which franchise was most likely to take a player. I would sit with the draft order and show a player the most likely scenarios.

For a players like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III the New York experience is a cakewalk. The Colts had already publicly announced they were picking him. RG3 knew Washington would take him with the second pick.

For the remainder of the picks the time is torture. Draft time is not real time, it is Chinese torture time. Each second feels like a minute, each minute like an hour, the wait is agonizing. If a player is not selected in the spot he anticipates, depression and uncertainty set in. Watching the other players being picked and go on stage to hold up a team jersey and be photographed with the commissioner is a bittersweet moment.

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