History Class: 2000 NFL Draft
By George Somerville
In this series I look at some of the less known facts about certain draft years and hopefully bring a bit of fun to what can be a very serious few weeks in the run up to the NFL Draft.
PAY ATTENTION CLASS!
If like me you are fed up hearing that Tom Brady was plucked from obscurity in the 2000 draft, you might be interested to hear that this draft broke records for very different reasons.
So firstly, let’s get it out of the way. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, a quarterback out of the University of Michigan, was selected with the 199th pick of the draft. As we now know, Brady would go on to have a mediocre career with the New England Patriots and would slip into obscurity following retirement to the Tampa Bay Area. Well this is my recollection….
However, if you thought that this was the highlight of the 2000 draft then think again. Believe it or not, this was not the best story to come out of this draft. No, my friends it was not. In fact I would argue that there are three other brilliant stories to come from this draft….but where to start?
J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!
Let’s begin with those perennial underachievers, the New York Jets. A team so bereft of leadership, scouting guile and common sense that even their own fans boo their draft picks. But back in 2000, the Jets had four first round picks, yes FOUR in the first round. Which, my friends, set a record for the most first round picks that any one team had had in the history of the draft.
In 2000, the Jets had picks twelve, thirteen, eighteen and twenty seven – and for the record, the Jets had a good draft. So back off with the booing Jets fans.
With picks twelve and thirteen the New York Gang Green raided the SEC, selecting a pair of Defensive Ends in Shaun Ellis from Tennessee and John Abraham from South Carolina. Big Katt Ellis would become a two time pro bowler during his ten seasons with the Jets. John Abraham would have a fifteen year NFL career, playing five for the Jets and then the Falcons and the Cardinals. So far so good.
With the eighteenth pick the Jets got their quarterback, selecting Chad Pennington from Marshall University. Pennington would go on to lead the Jets for seven years before a two year stint with the Dolphins. Pennington would take the Jets to the AFC East title in 2002 but also in 2008 with the Dolphins. Fun fact, Pennington is the only QB outside of Tom Brady to do so between 2002 and 2019.
"Block Like That Again & I Will Send Your Ass Back To West Virginia"
With the 27th pick, the Jets selected a Tight End in Anthony Becht out of West Virginia University. Anthony was recently a guest on the College Chaps Podcast and he talked about his path to the Jets.
Becht talked about the pressure of being drafted in the first round. This is what he said,
“I was in a historic draft for the New York Jets with four first round picks in that draft…..but when I got there I was the only guy that was forced to play immediately. So I immediately had to fill that role of the tight end position and I’ll tell you about pressure. One of the great coaches in NFL history is Bill Parcells, who’s personality was more of a negative re-enforcement guy, he was very tough and demanding. He wasn’t my Coach but he was the General Manager at the time and he drafted me”
Anthony went on to tell us about his first meeting with the legend that is Bill Parcells,
“In the very first pre-season game against the New Orleans Saints I went out there and had four catches, a touchdown and I’m thinking to myself – “man what a game, you come out first game, have a touchdown and four catches”.
The next day, we were in pads after the game and Parcells is walking about on the other side of the field and he waves me over. As I’m jogging towards him, I’m thinking to myself “this guy is going to high five me, what a great draft pick, you’re the man, you got your first touchdown in your first game”. But he pulls me aside and he turns to me and he says “Hey Becht, if you ever go on that field and block like that again, I will send your ass back to West Virginia…”
Anthony want on to say,
“It was a humbling experience for me…..and it put pressure on me to compete. To get out there and be an integral part f the team. It was “you’re a first rounder, get out there and do your job”. …..that was the Bill Parcells way…..there was no sugar coating. But they got the diva first rounder out of me and I was able to play for another twelve years”.
You can listen to our full conversation with Anthony Becht here:
But enough of the Jets as this might not even be the most interesting story of the 2000 Draft – what? Not Brady or the Jets?
'Seabass' Goes Seventeenth Overall
No, lets move to the Raiders. Now, we know the Raiders love to do crazy things, unpredictable things. Well with the pick before the Jets took Chad Pennington, the then Oakland Raiders selected Sebastian Janikowski with the 17th pick. Yes, the Raiders selected a Kicker in the first round. Janikowski had graduated from Florida State University and would go on to have 19 years in the NFL – 18 with the Raiders and his final year in Seattle. Janikowski is one of only three kickers to be selected in the first round of the Draft, going on to be the Raiders all time leading point scorer with 1,799 points and with more franchise appearances than any other player in Raider history. So another great pick.
And what if I told you that this still wasn’t the greatest story to come out of this draft. So not Brady, not the four 1st round pick Jets, and not a kicker being picked in the 1st round. You would call me crazy. But I am not…
No White Flags
The greatest story of the 2000 NFL Draft is that of a safety out of Washington State who actually went undrafted. That Safety would be picked up by the Indianapolis Colts and subsequently traded to the New Orleans Saints. This Safety would go on to create the franchise-defining moment in Saints history in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. And this safety would create more hope, spirit and fundraising for a disease which has debilitated this man who now lives his life in a wheelchair.
That safety was and is Steve Gleason, who blocked that punt early in the 2006 game post-Katrina, setting the tone for the rebirth of the Saints and to which a statue of this play now sits outside the Superdome. Sadly Gleason was struck down with ALS and who’s foundation to this day continues to raise awareness and millions of dollars for the research of this terrible disease.
That blocked punt would immediately lead to the Saints’ first score in the Superdome post Katrina and would symbolise the gritty recovery of a City torn to pieces by the Hurricane.
Gleason would retire from the NFL in 2008 after six years with the Saints. In 2011 Gleason was awarded a Super Bowl ring by the Saints at the same time that he was given the keys to the City of New Orleans. And if you haven’t watched the amazing and inspiring NFL documentary of Gleason’s climb of Machu Pichu I implore you to do so. To make life easy for you I have provided it below. Volume up please:
And before I wrap up this article I unashamedly admit to finding Steve Gleason the single most inspiring individual I have come across. So I happily hijack this article to promote his cause. Please go visit the Steve Gleason foundation at www.teamgleason.org
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.