By Dave Ruthenberg
Good things come to those who wait … and wait … and wait a little more.
It’s day two of the 2009 NFL Draft and former Enid High School and Eastern Michigan University standout linebacker Daniel Holtzclaw is settling in for a what he and his family hope will be a day that ends with his being selected by one of the 32 NFL teams.
Since the first day of the NFL Draft consisted of only the first two rounds, the second day of the televised event from New York is the focus of the Holtzclaw household as Daniel is projected to be chosen anywhere from the fifth- to seventh-round or picked up as an undrafted free agent. The family allowed the Enid News & Eagle to document the day’s events.
9 a.m.— Daniel, his father, Eric, and sister, Jennifer, have settled in to the family room watching ESPN’s live coverage (mom Kumiko would join in later). Despite knowing his best opportunity of being drafted won’t likely arrive until the fifth round or later, Daniel already is feeling apprehensive. “I’ll be nervous until my name is called.’’ With his cell phone in his lap, he fidgets on the sofa uncomfortably. He said two NFL teams, Jacksonville and Washington, called earlier in the week to confirm his telephone number.
9:29 a.m. — Jason Williams, an outside linebacker from Western Illinois, is the first linebacker selected on day two, foretelling a pattern that would emerge throughout the day with several outside linebackers being selected but surprisingly few inside linebackers (Holtzclaw’s position) being picked.
11:32 a.m. — The fourth round of the draft is underway and teammate T.J. Lang, an offensive tackle, is selected 109th overall by the Green Bay Packers. Daniel sends a congratulatory text message. “I’m really happy for him.’’
2 p.m. — The fifth round of the draft is well underway and the apprehension is ratcheted up a notch. Daniel has separated himself from the rest of the family and is watching the draft at the kitchen table on another TV set.
2:07 p.m. — “Every time my phone rings or I get a text, my heart stops,’’ notes Daniel, who is growing increasingly anxious. “Sometimes I wish I had just transferred to a bigger school, especially now,’’ he adds. There is frustration at seeing players from schools such as Oklahoma State and Western Ontario being drafted ahead of him. “Yeah, it’s kind of a slap in the face, but you know guys from someplace like USC would probably say the same thing about somebody from Eastern Michigan getting drafted before them.’’ He bristles, though, when asked what his feelings will be if his name isn’t called today. “I don’t even want to think about that. I am not even considering that right now. I will deal with that when it happens.’’
2:30 p.m. — “I just had a text from Jason Jones (former EMU teammate and current Tennessee Titan), wanting to know if I have heard anything from my agent.’’ He hasn’t.
2:50 p.m. — Round six begins and anxiety has taken over.
4:30 p.m. — Round seven arrives and Daniel has moved to his bedroom to lie down and watch the draft. The day has taken its toll. Meanwhile, out in the living room, his dad is feeling the strain of the day. Eric expresses some frustration over the fact some players got drafted despite positive drug tests or missing the entire season with an injury. “It’s frustrating, a kid like Daniel starts every game for four years and does everything right …’’
5:20 p.m. — “I’m (ticked) off,’’ Daniel says as the draft winds down and it becomes clear his name won’t be called. It’s little consolation other higher-profile players such as Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer find themselves in a similar situation. With only 256 slots available, more players wind up not being drafted than drafted.
The mood changes later, however, as the phone starts to ring, delivering news from Holtzclaw’s agent NFL teams are interested in having him participate in their upcoming rookie camps. The next day he accepts an invitation to attend the Detroit Lions’ rookie camp, however, the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that had Holtzclaw rated highly as a free-agent prospect, also currently are in the mix, along with Atlanta and Seattle. Holtzclaw could entertain offers from those clubs as well.
It was a long and emotional ride, but Holtzclaw’s road to the NFL, while encountering a few bumps, appears to be back on track.
“It’s another challenge (going the free-agent route) and I’ll make the most of it,’’ noted an upbeat and rejuvenated Holtzclaw.
By Dave Ruthenberg
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