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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 5

Brianna Keilar: A Formula for Success

MTV-U's Brianna Keilar

In the room, I got a plate and sat down right in front of a television and not far from a young woman who was really all by herself, but near the room's door; by contrast people were tables far away from the door in groups. Between bites of food and television glances, we started a conversation.

Brianna Keilar's a 2001 Cal-Berkeley grad and a television personality who some of you may recognize if you're students. She's regularly seen on MTV-U and is a New York Correspondent for CBS News. At 24 years old, she's off to a great start on a promising career that could see her as a national news anchor, a dream she realizes requires years of hard work.

(Brianna's now an anchor / reporter on CNN!)

Brianna Keilar Gets More Airtime | Brianna Keilar and Kyra Phillips | Brianna Keilar On CNN Saturday | Brianna Keilar Now CNN Anchor | Brianna Keilar At 2005 NFL Draft | Hybrid Cars

But what Brianna understands, and what we talked about for a time, are the importance of relationships. In her case, she got her start as an intern at Oakland-based KTVU in 2001 and was helped by (now former) station executive Kenny Wardell, who was also of great assistance to me in opening KTVU's library for my video crew to use as part of their work on our Super Bowl Bid. So, yes, we had a small world conversation.

Brianna credits Wardell and sports anchor Joe Fonzy for being good friends and teachers. But what she does well is establishing and maintaining relationships and seizing opportunities when they emerge. That's how she came to be a New Yorker enjoying the professional and personal advantages of being in the media industry in a media capital.

Still, with all of the great stories she has, there is the occasional mishap: "I'm here (in the room) because my photog's battery died right in the middle of my interview with (Miami Cornerback and new Cardinals's First Round pick) Antrel Rolle!" But after our conversation, she was back out in the main room, mic in hand with the "photog's" camera in working order.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers was still undrafted. Arizona, Washington, Detroit, Dallas, San Diego, New Orleans, Carolina, Kansas City, Houston, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and St. Louis all passed on him, and many people around me felt he was in freefall and one person even speculated that he may not even make the first round at all. So, I took a trip to "Draft Fan Central."

The NFL Draft Fan Central

The league established this new part of the Draft not only to give fans something to do during a long day, but to serve as a kind of "catch spill" in case the fan crowd grew beyond the main ballroom's capacity to handle it. I was impressed with the setup. There were a number of things to do: America Online's webcast was presented there, one could challenge a friend at one of EA Sports' Madden NFL game centers placed in various areas, or one could pretend to be an NFL football announcer, or get New York Jets' Linebacker Jonathan Vilma's autograph.

The Ultimate Draft Critics

Talking with Draft Fans

If NFL player autograph's were not one's interest -- I've never wanted one, personally -- one could just hang with their friends, as a group of locals were doing when I walked over to ask them about their thoughts on the First Round to that point. All of them had an opinion of Matt Jones, the 6 foot 6 inch, 4.3 40-yard dash quarterback-about-to-be-turned-tight end who was the 21st pick in the First Round by Jacksonville. "He was a quarterback," said John (yes, just John), "wasn't good enough to be a quarterback. I would not take him this high. I mean he's an athlete, but not a football player."

As we finished talking, it was announced that Baltimore selected Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton. John's group erupted with cheers.

Cal's Aaron Rodgers Finds a Home...Finally!

My conversation complete, I returned to my seat in the main room just as Oakland, which had just acquired Seattle's 23rd pick in the First Round, was on the clock. I really thought the Raiders were going to pick Rodgers, but they didn't, selecting Nebraska Cornerback Fabian Washington instead. The crowd was shocked. "By trading that pick to Oakland, Seattle did the Packers a huge favor," observed Bill Chachkes. What followed was a kind of spiritually surreal scene as it seemed that everyone in the room knew -- not expected, but knew -- that the Green Bay Packers were going to choose to draft Aaron Rodgers. You could hear people whispering his name before the card was sent to the head table.

When Commissioner Tagliabue stepped forward to announce just that, the room erupted with applause. Some fans in the stands gave a standing ovation, and almost everyone in the press area clapped. The room itself breathed a sign of relief.

As soon as Rodgers emerged from the Green Room and onto the main stage, I got my pad and headed for the Interview Room. I knew it would be packed, so I wanted a choice seat. I got one. The Cal signal caller's ordeal was the talk of the room, so everyone wondered how he was handling this. After all, he was suppose to be the Number One pick.

There were various reasons given for his drop to the 25th pick. Scott Parker said that the 49ers had Rodgers rated higher than other teams and so when the 49ers didn't select him, he fell to the Packers, who needed him. Chachkes, who's NL Scouting organization charts players bound for the NFL Draft, said that Rodgers private workouts were not that good. I don't agree with him about that, but the reason may rest in his personality. Rodgers is a confident young man, and it may be that his approach could have been off-putting to the 49ers. Rodgers is a take-charge kind of person, and some people don't know what to do with an approach that plays better in New York than in,..well, San Francisco.

Take his interview, which can be seen in full with a click here. Asked if he realized he was now the Number Two quarterback taken, Rodgers replied "I still think I'm the best quarterback in this draft." And one of the reporters cracked "I agree." Rodgers believes he's good, and in Bret Fare, he's about to work behind perhaps the most confident quarterback in the NFL.
Rodgers At The Podium

Aaron Rodgers: A Happy Man's Family

I must report that as Rodgers came into the Interview Room, it filled to standing room only. Rodgers family and friends -- all wearing Packers caps, came into the room about 30 strong. Even NFL officials like PR Director Greg Aiello came in to take a listen. It was an experience. Everyone was happy for him, but none more than his family.

After his interview, I talked to members of Aaron Rodger's family about their experience with the newly chosen Packers Quarterback as he went from being the media's consensus pick by the San Francisco 49ers just three weeks ago, to a literal free fall from the Number One Pick to the 25th Pick in the First Round. His cousin, who talked on condition of anonymity, remarked that she "Almost lost it" after Arizona, which had the 8th Pick in the First Round, didn't select Rodgers.
Some of Rodgers' Clan

A Happy Family

The family is very happy that Rodgers became a Packer, but not a little displeased that he was not selected by the 49ers. Either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the 49ers and Packers don't play each other this season. But because both teams are in the NFC, they will play each other often over the next 10 years. So, today the seeds were planted for the growth of a new NFL quarterback rivalry.

Before I close the Rodgers matter, I have to report a conversation I had with his cousin. We talked about why he was leaving Cal, and I asked if he was having a good time at Berkeley. "Well, Aaron doesn't really like Berkeley," she said. "I think he was ready to go." That's too bad. Aaron came from a junior college in 2003 and didn't have the chance to enjoy being Cal's BMOC, unlike his nemesis, USC signal caller Matt Leinhart who has spent all of his college years at USC and elected to remain in LA rather than join Rodgers in the Draft. Consider that just last November, Rodgers was being mobbed as he was waving a Rose after Cal clobbered Stanford in the 2004 Big Game. Now he's gone.

After the Rodgers clan departed, I went back to my seat to take a break. The first round ended at 6 PM, and lasted almost six hours. The Second Round was less eventful by far until the Jets fans made themselves known... 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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