Bill Little commentary: A mystifying day of the draft
There is very little in sports that is close to the phenomenon of the NFL draft.
From the minute Vince Young decided that he was going to forego his final season at Texas and enter the ranks of professional football...way back in early January...this past weekend has been the most anticipated sports moment of the spring. All we heard, for four months was Young, Bush, Leinart--in any and every order.
And when it was over, if anything was certain, it was that, despite their best-learned efforts, none of the so-called "experts" had a clue of how it would all turn out.
Bush, who was a lock to go as the first pick to Houston, went as the second to New Orleans. Young, who was the sentimental choice for Houston wound up in Tennessee--which is where a lot of projections had placed him. Leinart dropped to the tenth spot, where he was taken by Arizona.
If the weekend of watching proved anything, it was that there were times the "mute" button was merciful to both the viewers and the commentators, who simply ran out of things to say. It also showed the science of selecting pro football players is a process that may be clear to those who do it, but it shall remain a mystery to the fans who profess to follow it.
The National Champion Texas Longhorns had six players drafted. Southern Cal, which lost to Texas, 41-38, in that BCS title game, had eleven. Ohio State, which Texas beat, 25-22, had nine.
I guess what that means is, the National Championship wasn't about who had the best players...it was about who had the best team. Granted, the Longhorns have a wealth of talent returning, but if the number of NFL prospects is the gauge, Texas will take the crystal ball over the draft day numbers. The season's success is a credit to the team, and the coaching staff.
The two first-round draftees for Texas, Young and Michael Huff, were gratifying. Everybody had scrutinized Young over the period since the Championship Game, and even on Saturday, TV types were re-assessing his throwing motion. Some folks just don't seem to get it.
In some ways, Young can be compared to the Longhorns' last first-round quarterback draftee, the legendary Bobby Layne.
While the lifestyles of the two are nowhere close to parallel, the playing styles were. Both simply won. Of all of the characteristics of the two, the most powerful for both was competitiveness.
They said Layne's passes "wobbled, but they got there." And enough of them did for him to make both the college and the pro football halls of fame.
The point is, the story will not be told until the players finally reach the playing field. We saw this in a month of speculation prior to the Rose Bowl, and now for four months before the draft. Fact is, this is what we live with. We live in a time where there is more media coverage, immediate media coverage, than ever before. Commentators have to say something, and a lot of sports networks are now steering their voices toward a "point-counterpoint" style.
What we know is, six Longhorns were drafted, and as many as a half-dozen more hopefully will get a chance to play pro ball as free agents. Cedric Griffin, David Thomas, Jonathan Scott and Rod Wright were named in the draft, and Will Allen has already landed with the Saints and Aaron Harris was in the midst of on Monday.
While you may have gotten tired of the commentators, the coaches who were interviewed reflected a common theme, which fit right in with that of the Longhorn program under Mack Brown.
One of the No. 1 things the pros looked at was "character." Of the eight Longhorns who were close to committing to the NFL on Monday, half of them have already received their degrees, and the others lack only a semester or so.
It is the purpose of a university to educate, and to prepare young people for a career beyond college. In most cases, the degree is the symbol of the completion of the college experience, and it certainly is an important goal for every student-athlete who comes to Texas.
The NFL is the dream, and in a lot of ways, the course to that destination parallels the Longhorns' season-long theme of "Take Dead Aim."
If their goal is a career in the NFL, it is now time for them to aim for that. We may not understand the entire process, but this much we know: The weekend was only the beginning to the next step in their life, just as graduation day will be for thousands across the country.
What you have done to this point is impressive. Now it is time to go to work again to prove who you are, and what you can do. Because in life, as in sports, nothing is taken for granted.
We found that out on TV this weekend.