PHILADELPHIA — Fans wearing No. 11 Carson Wentz jerseys flooded Philadelphia's downtown last Thursday, the first day of the NFL draft. Though this city is a smaller market than Chicago and New York, the respective hosts of the last two drafts, the league's presence was impossible to miss. Sports stores put Eagles gear in special window displays; Uber drivers loudly complained about the closed roads and traffic; a business traveler we met even extended his stay just to check out the draft. You don't have to be among the 253 names called on stage to have a connection to the event. From a police officer tasked with guarding the red carpet, to the mom of a first-round pick, The MMQB talked to people from all walks of life who played a role in this year's draft.
Solomon Thomas, 21, taken by the 49ers with the third overall pick. Thomas is a big fan of the romantic movie, The Notebook.
“We have a Notebook poster in our dorm room, the movie poster. I’ve seen it too many times. My favorite quote is the one where they are arguing and he says, ‘What do you want?’ It’s when she is leaving, and she says, ‘I don’t know.’ And he says, ‘I want you. All of you. Every day.’ That’s the one.”
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Alec Cabacungan, 14, a Shriners Hospital patient ambassador. Alec has osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that has caused more than 70 broken bones in his body.
“I have been to three NFL drafts. This is one of those times of the year where I can’t sleep, I’m so excited. This draft is going to be so exciting. The number one pick, which is usually determined already, is still up for grabs. The Browns may take Myles Garrett or Trubisky, I don’t know. If I am the GM of the Browns, I could pick anybody and it would be OK because the Browns need a couple, they need some good players. But if I had to pick, it would be Myles Garrett.” [The first pick was indeed Garrett.]
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Ryan Ramczyk, 21, the Saints’ first-round pick out of Wisconsin
“Madison has a great tradition of offensive lineman and that attests to coaching staff there and the kind of mentality that program sets. We go out there and play good football and that produces good offensive linemen . . . My favorite Madison spot is Mickie’s Dairy Bar. I would go to breakfast there after practice. I get The Scrambler—potatoes, cheese, sausage, all that stuff. Me and the O-linemen would all go there and have Mickie’s after practice. . . . People can say what they want [about this draft being weak at the offensive line position] and it is what it is. In my situation personally, I think I am a really good football player and I am not worried about what the media says. I’ll go out there and show what I can do and I’m confident my abilities to be a good offensive lineman in the NFL.”
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Katelin McFadden and sons, Mason, 3, and Julian, 10. Julian played in the youth football clinic hosted by draft prospects.
Katelin: “We’re from Conshohocken, so they both play for the Conshohocken Bears. I think Mason is a little bit jealous. I told him he could come with us, but he wasn’t old enough to play. He had to be 6 years old, so he’s having fun watching.”
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Julian: “When we played flag football, [New York Jets first-round pick] Jamal Adams put me on his Snapchat! I also got to play with [Jaguars first-round pick] Leonard Fournette, he’s my favorite because I’m a running back too.”
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Adoree’ Jackson, 21, a former USC cornerback and the Titans’ selection at No. 18.
“For my relaxing time I watch the Food Network. I’m into the competition shows, so I like Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped, Iron Chef, The Gauntlet. I watch Beat Bobby Flay a lot. I try to cook myself, but I just don’t like washing dishes. I like making fried rice, with everything. I make combination fried rice because you can put it away and heat it up and it never gets old. I just like those competitive shows because they are making something out of nothing. They give you three ingredients and they say make this. To see people transform it, you got people from different areas and fields—and it’s amazing. People always outdo themselves and what they think they can do, just being adaptable. I couldn’t do it in 30 minutes. I would need the Cupcake Wars time, like two hours. I know a little bit, but I don’t know the right terminology, the right spices, or to put in a reduction.”
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Roosevelt Robinson, 58, an Uber drive in Philadelphia.
“I'm going out to the suburbs tomorrow. The traffic will be so bad you can walk there and get there quicker than an Uber can take you. I'm not gonna get directly into it. There's talk of smaller cities hosting, but the draft isn't even going to work here, you see the potholes and construction, I don't think that the timing was right for it, but it helped the NFL's budget. The NFL draft is huge. People here are fascinated. It's like, you guys calm down, what if they have a Super Bowl here?”
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Jonathan Allen, 22, Washington’s first-round pick and former Alabama defensive end. In his spare time, Allen is planning his wedding.
“I have two dogs and a fiancée so they take up a good amount of my time when I am not doing football. We have a big family. With just immediate family and first cousins, we have 200 people total. I don’t know what we’re going to do . . . that’s a lot of people and I don’t want to have 600 people at the wedding, so we’re talking it over right now. The wedding will be next offseason.”
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Steve Smith Sr., 37, former NFL receiver turned NFL Network analyst.
“On my draft day I sat all day in my apartment in Utah and I was waiting for my name to be called. It was 16 years ago, so I didn’t have a cell phone. I used to have a pager then too, but I wasn’t a dope dealer. They called me and said, ‘Do you want to be a Carolina Panther?’ That’s what happened. I was waiting all day, because that was when the first three rounds were one whole day. I was on West Coast time so it was like 7 p.m.—I was just sitting on the couch, waiting.”
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Dana Mitchell, mother of Bengals first-round pick John Ross.
“It’s a wonderful feeling. I was ready for this. It is the emotional side that is getting me. I’m very emotional. My eyeliner tonight isn’t waterproof, because I am not going to cry. I am ready. I’m not nervous at all. John isn’t nervous either. We’re good, it’s just my emotional side. We are all ready. I had a long time to pick out my outfit. It wasn’t last minute, I was able to get all my outfits together on time and pack on time, I didn’t have to rush. I came with several outfits, but of all the outfits I brought, John said, ‘Mom, wear the white pantsuit.’”
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Officer Stevenson, Philadelphia PD. Stevenson’s duty on draft day: guarding the red carpet.
"It’s hot out here. I’m wearing head-to-toe black. It’s hot enough to sweat through my uniform. I work Eagles games all the time, but this is different. More security, more people. I’m an Eagles fan and I love working the games because I get paid by yelling. A couple of the players know me."
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Michael Monaco, 11; Dustin Johnson, 16; cousins and Eagles fans.
Dustin: “It means a lot to have the draft here, it brings back pride!”
Michael: “I used to be a Steelers fan… And then I changed. My parents were Steelers fans, but then I started to become an Eagles fan.”
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Michael Samuels, 17, a junior defensive tackle/center for Philadelphia’s MLK High School. Samuels and his teammates presented the Eagles’ first-round pick.
“I’ve been playing football since I was 4 years old. It was inspiring to be up there on the stage, because the first thing I thought in my head was, What if that was my name? It’s just a really amazing feeling. It was all surreal. I want to feel that again, and hopefully one day that will be my name up there. My phone was vibrating so much when I was up there. My friends were texting me nonstop! I was a captain last year and we didn’t do as well as we wanted last season. But we are focused on this year. I’m going into my senior year and I promised my coach a championship, so he’s holding me to my word.”
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Takkarist McKinley, 21, Falcons first-round pick and former UCLA defensive end.
"I love sleep. Whenever I get a chance to sleep, I'm going to sleep. If it's for 20 minutes? I'm sleeping. An hour? I'm sleeping. Once we go back to the hotel today at 12, I'm going straight to sleep. I'll probably be in bed around 12:10. My alarm clock is an old phone sound, it irritates me. [In my downtime] I’m either asleep or I'm watching cartoons, like SpongeBob or Dragon Ball Z."
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