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The 2005 NFL Draft - by Zennie Abraham

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Thanks to Frank Supovitz, SVP of Special Events for the NFL, Greg Aiello, Vice President of Public Relations of the National Football League, and Leslie Hammond, VP of Media Relations for the NFL, I was able to cover the 2005 NFL Draft. Here's my account - Zennie Abraham, Chairman and CEO, Sports Business Simulations.

The 2005 NFL Draft - Part 2

"How do I find my seat?" I asked. She was only too helpful and showed me a map of the room, where areas were blocked out by name. "Come with me, I'll show you." And so she walked me over to my row, which was the next to last one near the rear of the Press Row. The way the room is designed, it was a great place to be. I'll explain why, later.

My table afforded a great view of the proceedings, but being so early I felt a little lonely. All that changed as a seat one abreast away from me was occupied by a writer for a local New York sports magazine, and the seat immediately next to me was filled by a man with an English accent who kept an ear piece connected to a kind of cell phone in his left ear the entire first day of the draft. He was so silent, and I was such the busy social media butterfly, that I never bothered to ask him what he was doing.
Bill Chachkes (foreground) and The Draft Experts

The Back of the Pack Club

The number of silent neighbors rapidly dropped to a minority level with the arrival of Bill Chachkes and John Murphy of NLScounting.com, and`Mike Adkins, Luke Irwin, DJ Boyer, and Jesse Ballard of www.Draft.com and www.Draftstudio.com, all in the first photo on this page. Of all, Chachkes -- in the foreground above -- was the most talkative. Bill's a 29-year NFL Draft veteran, or what some people refer to as a "Draftnik." (To read my interview with Chachkes, click here.)

Bill quickly introduced himself and we hit it off. What started the series of conversations was his comment to me that I "can't be all bad, you're using a Mac. I've got the one that came before yours." So, Bill briefly told me about NL Scouting and what they do in the area of player talent evaluation. But our conversation quickly turned to observations about members of the growing crowd of people. Among them was a guy sporting a Fedora, a rather loud hounds tooth jacket, a very large cigar, and a very expressive personality.

"Say," I asked Bill, "Isn't that (HBO Boxing Analyst) Bert Sugar over there with the cig?" "Yeah," cracked Bill, "He owes me two cigars from a dinner I took him to." Chachkes, ever the cigar aficionado, then promised to bring me one of his favorite cigars from his humidor. "I should go over and get my two cigars from Bert," he said. I wondered aloud if Sugar would give me one -- not that I'm a regular smoker -- far from it. "Go over and ask him," directed Chachkes.
Bert Sugar, Me, and Roy Firestone

Fun With Bert and Roy

So, I walked over to a place next to the left side of the team table area, and managed to smoothly insert myself into a conversation with Sugar and HBO, ESPN, and -- that's right, as he was in the sports business picture Jerry McQuire -- movie star Roy Firestone (we're all in the first picture on this page; I'm the guy in the middle). Bert was just about to tell a joke I can't repeat for this article. After he told it, we all got a good laugh and I asked Sugar for a cigar. "For you, of course!" He said. A reward for listening to a joke well-told. It was all in fun.

Firestone was in good sprits. He was at the Draft working on behalf of America Online, hosting an online program. Roy has a new show called "Face to Face with Roy Firestone," with sports guests like NBA Coach Hubie Brown and Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis. But Roy says that they'll have musicians and artists on the show, too. As we talked about the program, Roy agreed with my description of the show as kind of like "Terri Gross' Fresh Air, but for television." He has a website at www.royfirestone.com

The ballroom is stuffed with media legends. In addition to Firestone, the ESPN Draft Day Team of Chris Berman, Chris Mortensen, and Mel Kiper are doing their show from a podium stage just 50 feet to the right of me.
Fox's Sports Jay Glazer and Me

The Worker: Jay Glazer

Not far away from Sugar and Firestone, was Fox Sports Radio Personality Jay Glazer, shown with me in the third picture above. I'm really proud to say I met Jay at my first NFL Owners Meeting, the Fall 1999 gathering in Chicago at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, where I was to meet with the Super Bowl Policy Committee. We met at Knuckles Sports Bar, where Jay gave me a candid view of the NFL, the Oakland Raiders, NFL politics, and the uphill battle I faced in working to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland. At that time, Jay was a little known sports reporter for CBS, but a very hard worker. Glazer was at every NFL meeting, and seemed to have his cell phone on and either at his ear or at the ready. In fact, if you look at his right ear, you'll noticed Jay's plugged in.

Now, with Fox Sports, Jay's hard work has really paid off. He's not only doing a radio show for Fox, but has been an occasional guest on the TV show "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period." Jay's a living example of the view that relationships and hard work do pay off.

Not far from Jay, as they were just conversing at the time, was another legend, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman. Placed prominently in the front row of Press Row A, "Dr. Z" as he's called is a walking NFL Draft History Encyclopedia, and so well-repected that other journalists, like San Francisco Chronicle NFL Writer Ira Miller had their notepads at the ready, crowded around his seat like Jedi Knights taking lessons from Master Yoda.

At that point, my objective was to be in the right position to take pictures of the first round pick -- I thought it was going to be Cal's Aaron Rodgers -- as he approached the podium. So, I walked through the team table areas to position myself next to the other photographers near the podium and stage and wait.

A few moments later, the top six draftees invited to the NFL Draft were introduced. I took a photo of Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Cedric Bentson of Texas, and then waited for the quarterbacks to step forward.

I maintained what I later realized was a very luxurious place for some time before Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers emerged from the behind-the-curtain Green Room (where the draftees sit before they're called to the stage), taking pictures until an CSC events representative -- who remembered me from my trip to the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta -- very politely informed me that my badge didn't allow me to stand in the "TV Photo" zone of the room, which was right next to the stage (remember I was still a little confused with respect to where I should be). So, I moved back to a comfortable place next to the Fox Sports Radio table, took more photos, then returned to my seat in an effort to avoid the growing crowd near the main stage. I figured the Niners were going to draft Rodgers anyway, and it occurred to me that if I really wanted a good picture of him, I could get it in the Interview Room... more..

NFL Draft Part One | NFL Draft Part Two | NFL Draft Part Three | NFL Draft Part Four | NFL Draft Part Five | NFL Draft Part Six | NFL Draft Part Seven

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