20 Little-Known Facts About the NFL Draft
May 5th, 2014| by Lost Lettermen
The 77-year-old NFL draft is rich with “Did you know…” stories. Thus, we’ve compiled 20 of our favorite fun facts about the NFL’s second biggest event of the year.
The first winner of the Heisman Trophy, in 1935, University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger was also the first overall pick of the first NFL draft, in 1936. But he never played in league. Berwanger refused the Chicago Bears’ contract offer of $13,500 (Berwanger wanted $15,000), instead taking a job with a Chicago rubber company.
Since the inception of the “Mr. Irrelevant Award” in 1976, the last player taken in the draft has received the Lowsman Trophy, which mimics the Heisman Trophy – only the player depicted on the statue is fumbling.
Hey There, Cowboy
In the 17th round of the 1972 draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected 64-year-old movie star John Wayne, who briefly played at USC in the 1920s before a bodysurfing accident ended his football career. Sadly, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle disallowed the pick.
The defunct football program at the University of Tampa has produced more No. 1 overall picks (one: John Matuszak in 1973) than either Florida or Florida State (zero).
Better Late Than Never
Syracuse FB Norm Michael didn’t find out that he had been selected in the 17th round of the 1944 draft until 55 years later, when he came across his name in an article listing every ‘Cuse player ever drafted.
You’ve Got Mel
Mel Kiper Jr. was just 23 years old when he started covering the draft for ESPN in 1984 (and hadn’t yet perfected his hair). He made a whopping $400 for the assignment.
Zero Brownie Points
After drafting Stanford QB Bobby Garrett No. 1 overall in 1954, the Cleveland Browns traded him before the season to the Green Bay Packers after finding out Garrett was in the Army ROTC and would have to serve two years in the military. Nice scouting, Browns.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
In both the 1946 and 1947 NFL Drafts, the Washington Redskins used their first round pick on UCLA running back Cal Rossi. As a junior in ’46, Rossi was not draft eligible. And the following year, he spurned the Redskins’ pick and opted not to play in the NFL at all.
First on the Hardwood, Last on the Gridiron
In 1967, Providence shooting guard Jimmy Walker was both the top overall selection in the NBA draft and the last overall selection in the NFL draft (the latter despite never having played college football). Wisely, he opted for a career in the NBA.
What a Guy
The No. 23 overall selection by the Oakland Raiders in 1973, Ray Guy remains the only punter ever chosen in the first round of the draft. He repaid the Raiders by earning seven Pro Bowl berths in 14 seasons with the team.
Hitting The Airwaves
1980 was the first time the NFL draft was televised. Chet Simmons, president of the year-old network ESPN, asked then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle (left) if ESPN could broadcast the event. Rozelle’s response? “Why would you want to do that?” In 2013, nearly 8 million people watched the draft on TV.
The New York Jets made a record four first-round selections in the 2000 NFL Draft. And as proof that the Jets aren’t always a draft day disaster, all four players they selected (from left to right) – TE Anthony Becht, QB Chad Pennington, DE John Abraham and DE Shaun Ellis – would spend at least 11 seasons in the league.
What’s Old is New
At age 28, Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden – who played pro baseball for five years before starting his college football career – became the oldest first round draft pick ever when the Cleveland Browns selected him No. 22 overall in 2012.
The 1964 NFL Draft produced 10 future Hall of Fame players – QB Roger Staubach (left); RBs Charley Taylor, Paul Warfield and Leroy Kelly; WR Bob Hayes; OL Bob Brown; DE Carl Eller; DBs Mel Renfro and Paul Krause; and LB Dave Wilcox – and one future Hall of Fame coach, OL Bill Parcells. No other draft class boasts more Hall of Famers.
It Really is All About the ‘U’
A record six players from Miami (FL) – S Sean Taylor (left), TE Kellen Winslow II, LB Jonathan Vilma, LB D.J. Williams, OT Vernon Carey and DT Vince Wilfork (right) – were selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, the most ever for any school in the first round. They have since combined for 11 Pro Bowl berths.
Do One Thing, Do It Well
Stanford is tied for second all-time with four No. 1 draft picks (Notre Dame has five). All four Cardinal players so honored were quarterbacks: Bobby Garrett (1954); Jim Plunkett (1971, left); John Elway (1983); and Andrew Luck (2012, right).
The Colts organization has held the No. 1 overall pick a record seven times – three while in Baltimore, four since moving to Indianapolis prior to the 1984 season. Congrats?
On three occasions, a pair of former college teammates have been selected No. 1 and No. 2 overall: In 1967 (Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and Clint Jones respectively), 1984 (Nebraska’s Irving Fryar and Dean Steinkuhler) and 2000 (Penn State’s Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington).
Even More ‘Incredible Bust’
Further magnifying the disappointing NFL career of former Michigan State OT and No. 2 overall pick Tony Mandarich is that his four fellow Top 5 picks from 1989 – QB Troy Aikman, RB Barry Sanders, LB Derrick Thomas and CB Deion Sanders – are all in the Hall of Fame.
One of a Kind
Only one primarily defensive back has been selected No. 1 overall: Former Colorado A&M (now Colorado State) star Gary Glick, in 1956 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.