draft diamonds you might not have heard of

By George Somerville

George continues his trip down Draft memory lane to remember ten draft diamonds you might not have heard about.

The Draft has been littered over the years with many unforgettable moments. Most of which are instantly recognisable and frequently documented. Aaron Rodgers’ fall from grace? Bo Jackson refusing to sign for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Denver trading up to take Tim Tebow?

All instantly recognisable. But what about those less well documented moments?

1. Atlanta Falcons Draft John Wayne

Yes, that John Wayne. The” get off your horse and drink your milk”, John Wayne. John Wayne played football at USC from 1924 before he became an actor. Sadly, Wayne wasn’t drafted until 1972 when the Atlanta Falcons drafted The Duke in the 17th round. At the grand old age of 64.

Falcons Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin actually phoned the pick in after shouting out “do we want the roughest, toughest S.O.B. in the draft?”. Atlanta then selected John Wayne of Fort Apache State. In what was a classic what might of been moment, Pete Rozelle disallowed the pick. 

And we wonder why the Commissioner gets booed.

2. Those Pesky Redskins

In 1971 Washington Head Coach George Allen traded the club’s 1973 first-round draft choice to the Jets. For reasons known only to him, he also decided to trade the exact same pick to the Rams.

Clearly buoyed by his success, he also did the same with his second and third round picks too. Incredibly no one noticed what he was doing, which says little for the NFL’s oversight of the process.

As a result of the four players they secured as a result of these trades, Washington made the playoffs for the first time in decades. It wasn’t until the following year that the NFL realised what had happened. The Redskins were fined $5,000 and forced to give the Jets the team’s 1974 first rounder.

3. Barry Sanders - The First Ever Junior

NFL Draft
Barry Sanders drafted by the Detroit Lions. Photo Credit: Detroit Lions Archive.

Junior student athletes first became became eligible for the NFL draft in 1990. However, in 1989 Barry Sanders still had one year left of eligibility and Oklahoma State was just about to be put on probation  for NCAA violations.

The NFL allowed Sanders to forego his senior season and as a result was the first Junior to be drafted.

4. When the Draft wasn't called the Draft

During World War II, the NFL stopped calling the draft “the draft.” It was instead referred to as the “preferred negotiations list.” 

NFL Draft
Image Credit : James Montgomery Flagg, US Library of Congress

5. Those Pesky Redskins Again

In 1946 the Washington Redskins selected UCLA running back Cal Rossi with their ninth pick. Sadly, Rossi was a junior and ineligible. However, in the 1947 Draft, Washington finally got their man, selecting Senior Cal Rossi with their fourth pick.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen their fourth overall pick. They wanted Rossi that bad. Unfortunately, Rossi had no intention to play football and had enlisted in the Navy instead. 

6. Keeping The Streak Alive

(Photo: David Butler II, USA TODAY Sports)

In the 2000 draft, the Patriots and Eagles made a trade.

As it turns out this started a series of trades between the Pats and Eagles every year all the way to 2010. In 2011, there was no strategic reason for the two teams to make a trade. So being the superstitious pair that Belichick and Reid are they swapped picks No. 193 and No. 194 for no reason other than to keep the streak alive.

The streak ended in 2013 when Reid was fired by the Eagles. Belichick and Reid have not made a trade since Reid became coach of the Chiefs.

7. Communication Breakdown

NFL Draft
Image Credit: NFL.Com

In the 2003 draft, issues with their comms system caused the Minnesota Vikings to miss the seventh overall selection. Ever wondered what happens in this situation?

Well it literally is next team up. Next up were the Jaguars who jumped at the chance to announce their selection of Byron Leftwich. With the Vikings still reeling from the chaos, Carolina quickly followed with the selection of Jordan Gross.

Finally, having composed themselves the Vikings announced their pick at ninth overall. Amazingly, their pick at nine was the same as they wanted at seven. Pick nine – Kevin Williams – went on to be a future Pro Bowler. What chance is there of this happening on Thursday?

8. The Most Expensive Daft Pick Of All Time

NFL Draft
Photo credit: thescore.com

Coming out of Texas as a Heisman winner, running back Ricky Williams was an eagerly sought after talent. No more so than in New Orleans where Head Coach Mike Ditka essentially sold the family silver to secure the services of Williams.

Mike Ditka made a trade with the Washington Redskins to pick Ricky Williams fifth overall in the 1999 draft. What did Coach give up to get Williams? In return the Saints traded every pick they had in the 1999 draft, along with their first and third round selections in the 2000 draft.

This was not to be Ditka’s finest hour, the Saints finishing 3-13 that season – resulting in him being fired. Williams’ troubles are well documented, and he ended up playing only three years in New Orleans.

9. Browns Called The Wrong Player

While we covered the time the Bucs selected the wrong player in a previous article, the Browns example of this is equally hilarious.

The 2011 draft featured two players with names similar enough to make life difficult for teams picking under the time pressure of the clock – USC tight end Jordan Cameron and California defensive end Cameron Jordan.

The Browns on the clock with the 102nd pick, dialled the wrong number when trying to call Jordan Cameron. Cameron Jordan describes what came next:

“Hi,”said the voice on the other end. “Jordan? This is the Cleveland Browns.”

“Uh, yeah, this is Cameron Jordan,” he said. “But the Saints already picked me.” There was an awkward pause before Jordan continued: “I think you mean Jordan Cameron, you’re looking for Jordan Cameron. That’s not me.”

NFL Draft
Jordan Cameron. Photo credit: Rex/Shutterstock

10. Finding Out You Were Drafted Half A Century Later

The Eagles selected Syracuse fullback Norm Michael in the 18th round of the 1944 draft.

Which was fine – except he found out about it in 1999.

Michael was reportedly reading a newspaper list of each Syracuse player ever drafted and saw his name. Michaels said:

“My son sent (the Eagles) a letter after we found out, I think he wanted to see if the Eagles owed me a signing bonus. Think of the interest I could have (accumulated on the money). Fifty-seven years worth.”

At the time of the 1944 draft, the Eagles were unaware that Michael had joined the Army.

george somerville

College football writer