There’s good stories in NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is arguably the most overblown sporting “event” in the country.

It’s an exhausting three-day marathon where predictions are given, talk is endless and deals are made. On the surface, it seems rather boring — like any overblown business meeting.

However, it gets eaten up by writers, and somehow manages to get bigger every year. It went from a smaller meeting between coaches and owners to a larger but still quiet event in a hotel conference room before going live on ESPN in the early 1980s.

Since then, it’s went to larger venues in New York like Radio City Music Hall, where rabid football fans stood in the balconies, cheering decisions or in the case of New York Jets fans, loudly booing them.

Now it’s moved from New York to other large cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia and now Dallas. What used to be just a small meeting has become the league’s second biggest event after the Super Bowl.

There are even some people who get more excited for the draft than the league’s championship game. There are huge draft parties, which I have attended before, draft betting and there are some fans who leave work early to prepare to watch the event, which just boggles my mind.

However, I admit that I do get excited every time the draft comes around, but not for what you might think. I pay attention to who the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers choose, as well as if any players from Michigan and Michigan State are chosen.

Although that’s interesting, that’s not what I really like to focus on.

I look for the personal stories of the draftees because that’s where the real stories are. There have been some good ones, like when Michael Sam got picked in 2014 and became the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL.

This year, two of the best were linebacker Shaquem Griffin and offensive lineman Zack Golditch.

Griffin is the first NFL draftee with only one hand and he was picked by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round. His left hand was amputated when he was 4 years old because of a congenital condition, but it hasn’t had a big effect on him as he was a two-year starter at Central Florida, was an All-American Athletic Conference First Teamer both seasons and was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.

The story gets even sweeter now that Griffin is now reunited with his twin brother Shaquill on the Seahawks.

Unlike Griffin, Golditch wasn’t drafted last week, but his story is just as compelling. In 2012, he was in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, when gunfire started to occur in the theater next to him. The infamous James Holmes killed 12 people and one of his shots went through the wall into Golditch’s theater and struck him in the neck.

The bullet just missed hitting his spine, which could’ve prevented him from playing sports or walking. Golditch had to not only physically overcome the tragedy, but mentally as well. Eventually, he went on to have success at Colorado State and has now signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Both stories show athletes overcoming obstacles and achieving their dreams; that’s what makes the draft interesting. It’s not picks themselves or the contracts or whatever idiotic deal the Cleveland Browns have made. It’s personal tales like Griffin’s and Golditch’s that normally might not have been known if it weren’t for the draft.

So when April rolls around each year and the world of sports quickly turns in less than 24 hours from opening day of baseball to the draft, I’ll sigh and go along with the crowd and talk about 40-yard dash times and if a quarterback is “NFL ready.”

However, seeing the human interest stories are what keeps me and other more casual football fans interested.

The draft may be ridiculously overhyped, but when you hear about players like Sam, Griffin and Golditch, it can make you look forward to it. I know they do for me.

Unlike any other business meeting I’ve sat in.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.