the booker Reese draft

By George Somerville

George continues his trip down memory lane to uncover some of the more unusual moments in NFL Draft history.

In 1982 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to build on a team that had won two NFC Central Championships in the span of three years.

On the clock

1982 was only the third year in which the draft had been televised live. By the end of the event the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wished the draft hadn’t been televised at all.

The Bucs had decided that their 17th pick would be between guard Sean Farrell from Penn State or Booker Reese, a defensive end from the little known Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Booker Reese
Photo Credit: Scott Winters/ Icons Sportswire

The Pick is in

As Tampa’s pick get closer, Bucs GM Ken Herock called Pat Maruccilo, the team’s representative at the New York Sheraton Hotel. Pat Maruccillo was also the team’s equipment manager. 

Herock’s instructions were for Maruccillo to write both names down and await final insructions from the Bucs war room.

With around a minute to go of the Bucs allocated 15 minutes, Herock called his man in New York City to confirm the pick. 

Herock explains what happened next.

“The communication we had then, today you would consider it archaic. We were on the phone, but it was hard to hear. I’m hearing Pat say, “Quiet, quiet, quiet, I can’t hear what he’s saying”, and I can hear a lot of noise on the other end, in the background in New York”.

Herock continued 

“ We were close to our time, but we always let it ride until the last 30 seconds or so and then we’d turn the pick in. We thought we needed both of those players, but after we mulled it over and discussed it, the selection was to go with Booker Reese. So I told Pat, I said “Listen Pat, you’ve got two names theree, we’re not going with Sean Farrell, we’re going with Booker Reese. Turn it in”.

“But he didn’t hear the Booker Reese part of it because of the noise. He took it that we were going with Sean Farrell and turned it in”.

Booker Reese
Sean Farrell's thumb in Bill Maas' throat. Penn State vs. Pitt glory days Photo Credit: SB Nation Blackshoediaries

When the pick is in, the pick is in

When the pick was announced by Commissioner Pete Rozell the Bucs war room was stunned into complete silence. Herock explains the Bucs reaction.

“After we turned in the pick, we’re watching a minute later on TV and we find out we had selected Sean Farrell! There was a lot of cussing, like, you know, “What the hell’s he doing? What’s going on here?” But there was nothing you could do”.

The Bucs did try to contest the pick advising that the wrong name had been entered. In another NFL first Maruccillo was forced to approach the committee to advise of the Bucs error. 

Unsurprisingly the Committee’s response was – “when the pick is in, the pick is in”.

New York, New York

Booker Reese
Bucs fans had nothing to cheer about in 1983. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs blamed the raucous New York audience, particularly the Giants fans who had the #18 pick directly after the Bucs and who had started a chant to get their pick in.

What is more likely is that the very basic level of communication used, which was akin to using a walkie talkie. This was likely the real cause of the misunderstanding.

Regardless of the gaff, Sean Farrell went on to play in the NFL for 11 years, albeit with four different teams. Farrell was to become a Pro Bowler, so the pick wasn’t a complete bust.

And what of Booker Reese?

Well, the Bucs did select Reese in the second round which felt like the disaster had been averted.

Sadly the near miss the Bucs was a gift that they chose to ignore.

Reese significantly underachieved in a short career in Tampa before being traded to the LA Rams for a first round pick. Sadly, Booker Reese left the league shortly thereafter under a cloud of drug abuse.

What turned out to be an embarrassing but ultimately near miss as a draft bust turned into an almighty embarrassment and a huge draft bust. Go figure. Go Bucs.

george somerville

College football writer