With the NFL Draft right around the corner, I wanted to get a closer look at what goes through players’ minds as they prepare for the draft process. How they handle the preparation and anxiety leading up to the big day has always been something to wonder about. So we at TSFJ decided to do a series we like to call the Draft Diaries. It allows us to let current and former players give us a breakdown of how they weathered the storm that is known as the NFL Draft.
Former seven-year NFL veteran defensive end Steve White is the first participant of our series. White was a sixth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1996 NFL Draft. He spent the majority of his seven NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before finishing his career with the NY Jets. White is a consistent force in the social media world, with talking to fans via Twitter as well as blogging about football on his, “Passing On The Game” site. He gives us a very in-depth look into his draft day experience.
1. How soon did you take your draft status seriously during your college career?
I was an unheralded recruit out of Memphis when I signed with Tennessee. What made this even more glaringly obvious was that just about every other player who signed was on some kind of All-American list or, at the least, All-State. My bio was the shortest of our class, so, at first, I wasn’t 100% sure that college football in the SEC was for me. I was redshirted my first year there, and then I lost my Mother right after the spring semester. I certainly had thoughts about staying at home and just trying something else.
Then, I was moved from linebacker to defensive end my redshirt freshman season under Ray Hamilton. He saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself. Near the end of the season, he started giving me playing time here and there. Then, right when I was on the verge of starting, I broke my thumb. I ended up being out for awhile and not playing quite as much. After that season, Coach Hamilton left and we had a new defensive line coach in Jacob Burney, who didn’t see me in the same way. But from the moment Coach Hamilton put me in the South Carolina game in 1992 and I got my first sack, I actually started to believe I could end up having a pretty good career.
2. Take us back to the day you publicly decided to declare for the draft. At what point did you know this was your moment and you were ready for the NFL?
I didn’t declare for the draft; I was drafted as a senior. I was at Tennessee for four and a half years, including the season I redshirted. I did briefly consider testing the draft waters after my junior year, because I led the team in sacks with seven-and-a-half in my first year as a starter. But after a mediocre bowl game against Virginia Tech (I was held almost every play. Seriously!), those thoughts disappeared pretty quick.
3. How did you celebrate draft day? Who were the people that you shared your experience with?
Draft day for guys like me who didn’t get drafted until the sixth round is a bit of a different deal (it’s even worse now with them adding more days). Especially when there are reports out that you may get drafted as high as the fourth round.
I knew that I was going to be a mid-to-late-round pick, but I was hopeful after posting some really good numbers at my pro day. I was even flown to several teams for physicals and to meet with the coaches since I hadn’t been invited to the combine. At the same time, I realized that if I went late or even didn’t get drafted at all, I probably wouldn’t be in much of a “partying” mood. So the truth is I spent all weekend at home with my father waiting on that phone call. Although I tried not to, I did get frustrated after awhile when the phone didn’t ring in the fourth and fifth rounds, and I’m sure I was the worst company ever. But my Dad was really there for me and helped me a lot throughout the whole process. I was relieved more than anything else when the Eagles finally rang my phone.
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