Sam Bradford was the first player selected in the National Football League’s 75th draft. His college teammate, Gerald McCoy, the third pick, was the first to cry.
Bradford, McCoy and Trent Williams, all from the University of Oklahoma, were three of the top four picks -- a first for a school in the draft. Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh was chosen second, by the Detroit Lions.
McCoy celebrated his selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by breaking down in front of the draft’s first prime-time television audience, bear-hugging Roger Goodell and telling reporters afterward that he’d asked the NFL commissioner if it was OK to weep.
“I told myself ‘Yeah, I won’t cry.’ Yeah, right,” McCoy said. “I was really trying to hold it in but I was overcome by emotions.”
Bradford’s selection by the St. Louis Rams opened a draft that competed for television viewers against network shows such as NBC’s “30 Rock” and CBS’s “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.” It began with a red carpet in front of the Rockettes’ home theater and concluded three hours and 28 minutes later with the announcement by Drew Brees, quarterback for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, of the team’s choice of Patrick Robinson, a defensive back from Florida State.
The evening included appearances by Hall of Fame members including Joe Montana and Lawrence Taylor. Fans in a myriad of team jerseys celebrated and lamented each pick, while crews from both Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN and the league’s NFL Network broadcast the proceedings live.
“You grow up, you dream of playing in the NFL and you dream of hearing your name called on draft day,” Bradford told reporters. “But to have it actually happen, it’s a feeling that’s really unexplainable.”
The new St. Louis quarterback emerged on stage from behind a purple curtain, carrying a Rams’ No. 1 jersey to a mix of applause and jeers. He grinned through photographs with his family and left through the audience, slapping hands with the crowd. Bradford, who became the ninth player to win college football’s Heisman Trophy and get chosen first, said he knew in advance that McCoy might get teary.
“He told us, ‘When I hear my name, I’m going to cry,’” Bradford said. “We knew it was coming. That’s just who he is. He’s one of the best personalities I’ve ever come across and I can’t wait to watch him play in the NFL.”
McCoy said he won’t take it easy on his former teammate when they meet in the pros.
“He’s gonna get killed,” he said.
McCoy said he also looks forward to playing against Williams, a tackle who was picked fourth by the Washington Redskins.
“Me and Trent are boys but we’ve always had great battles in practice and it’s going to continue at the next level,” he said.
McCoy said the tears were for his mother, who died almost three years ago. He said they started when he stood up to go onstage and saw his father.
“The fire and drive that I have came from my mother,” he said. “When I tried to quit my freshman year at Oklahoma, she’s the one I talked to. She told me, ‘We don’t quit in this family. If you quit, I’ll kill you.’ And it worked. I’m here now.”
All three players stand to gain financially from their early selection. NFL teams typically overpay for the top players in the draft, “in a manner that is inconsistent with rational expectations and efficient markets,” according to a study by economists Cade Massey and Richard H. Thaler.
McCoy said he intends to prove he was worth the No. 3 pick.
“I’m real, real, real nice off the field, so a lot of people think I’m kind of soft,” he said. “Once I step across those white lines, I turn into an animal and I plan to bring that to Tampa.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Kuriloff in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.