NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With a Lei around his neck, and surrounded by family and friends back home in Hawaii, quarterback Marcus Mariota watched the 2015 NFL Draft at the alumni center of his high school.
When he got call from the Titans, informing him he’d be the No.2 overall pick, he smiled. A few moments later, when his name was called on television, the place erupted. Mariota held the earpiece against his head so he could hear what was being said on the other line as the buzz picked up.
It’s something he’ll remember the rest of his life.
“It was a special time,” Mariota said on Wednesday. “To hear your name called it’s – nothing like that in the world. It’s crazy to think that it’s been that long already. But, every time it comes around it’s still pretty fun to watch, and to remember those feelings.”
The NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday night in Arlington, Texas. Over the next three days, college players will become NFL draft picks.
The Titans are scheduled to make six picks in all, beginning with the 25th overall selection of the first round.
Things don’t always go expected in the draft, of course. While it's a time for celebration, it's also an event that disappoints in the moment as well, and can serve as a lasting source of motivation.
Both scenes will play out over the next three days.
Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who went undrafted out of Kentucky in 2008, uses the experience to fuel him. Woodyard signed as an undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos after being passed over by all 32 teams – again and again.
He’s now preparing for his 11th NFL season, coming off a career year with the Titans.
“I did watch it,” Woodyard said. “Me and my family, we watched it. And I think that is something that continues to motivate me to this day. Not hearing my name called, seeing my name go across the screen, it still motivates me to this day.”
Titans cornerback Logan Ryan feels the same way to some degree. Ryan was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round out of Syracuse back in 2013, but he thought he’d go much higher.
“I kind of had one of those, in my mind, slide down the draft board days,” Ryan said. “I thought I was going to go higher than I did. … So I came in with a chip on my shoulder because I felt slighted a little bit. …
“Even though I got drafted and it changed my life, I felt like I had a little chip on my shoulder which I do today.”
Titans center Ben Jones, originally selected by the Texans in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Georgia, said the draft teaches prospects patience.
“Just the anticipation, because you really don’t know,” Jones said. “In college, you kind of get to choose (where you’re going). It’s your decision. And with the draft, you don’t know who you are going to. It’s sitting back with your family, waiting for that call. It is a long process.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel knows the feeling himself.
Vrabel was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round (91st overall) of the 1997 Draft.
“It was a long 90 picks, I’ll say that,” said Vrabel, a linebacker who played 14 NFL season. “I think you never really know (where you’ll go). You always think that, ‘Hey, I’m going to go here, or this is where I’m going to end up.’ I think the best thing is probably to have little to no expectation as it relates to the draft, because things can change and people can choose differently. One pick could sway a few different picks. Guys get lost sometimes and then they end up dropping, or guys end up climbing. You’re like, ‘Where did that guy come from?’ Really, I try to tell the team that it doesn’t matter how all of us got here. It only matters what we do when we’re here.”
Mariota stood up and hugged his parents, his brother, his girlfriend and other family members and friends after wrapping up the call with the Titans.
The next day he was on a flight to Nashville, ready to join his new team. His days as a star at Oregon would be replaced with an NFL opportunity he’s now taking advantage of in Tennessee.
The process was a long one, but a fun one as well, he said.
“Really when it came down to it, just the amount of information that you had to gather,” Mariota said. “Really just being able to meet different coaches, different people. With all that being said, not really knowing where you’re going. All that uncertainty, while at the same time trying to gather as much information as you can, was a weird process. But, one that I think helped me to be a better player and helped me to get where I’m at today.”