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NT: Waiting is agony on draft day


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Waiting is agony on draft day



Staff Writer

Keep your head down. Keep your left arm straight. Follow through.

Andre Woolfolk had been on the golf course many times before, so he knew what he was supposed to do. But as he strolled down the fairways in Topeka, Kan., last April 27, his mind wasn't on the little white ball.

Instead, it was miles away in New York City, where the selections were being announced at the NFL draft. Still, he was on the golf course by choice.

''I played terrible that day,'' Woolfolk recalled. ''Every shot I took I was thinking about who might pick me. When we made the turn after the ninth hole, I peeked in at a TV and saw they were on about the 20th pick. I was hoping I'd get a call before I was off the course.''

Sure enough, while Woolfolk was on the 17th hole, his cell phone rang (he promised it didn't disturb the other golfers). It was the Titans. They were getting ready to make the Oklahoma cornerback the 28th pick of the 2003 draft.

It put an immediate end to an agonizing round of golf.

''I had the scorecard, but I never added up my score,'' Woolfolk said. ''Still that had to have been better than watching (the draft) on TV. That's painful.''

Today at 11 a.m., when the first of the draft's seven rounds begins, football players will hunker down on couches all over the country waiting for their names to be called. They'll be at parties in sports bars and restaurants and at the homes of family members and friends. A select few will be standing by in New York waiting to be handed a baseball cap.

Some, of course, will wait longer than others, maybe until tomorrow, when rounds 4-7 are conducted. For some players, the call won't come at all.

''If I could do it all over again,'' said Titans safety Tank Williams, a second round pick in 2002, ''I probably wouldn't watch. It almost wears on you. Watch something else on TV, maybe a movie. Get out and do something. Anything has to be better than watching (the draft) on TV.''

But clearly, watching is the most popular thing to do on draft day.

''I didn't watch every pick,'' cornerback Andre Dyson said of the 2001 draft, the year he was picked. Then he stopped himself. ''Actually, I'm a liar. I did pretty much watch all of it.''

A recent stroll around the Titans locker room, however, revealed that's not the only option players might decide to take this weekend as the picks roll across the bottom of the screen.

There are other ways to pass the time. Some will go to the movies. Others will play basketball or some other sport, like golf. Some might read a book. Or even sleep. Maybe wash the car.

Like Woolfolk, defensive tackle Rien Long also hit the links last April 27. But he was so curious he followed the first three rounds on his telephone, which had a connection to the Internet.

''In between holes, I kept getting updates,'' Long recalled. ''It was the worst golfing day of my life.''

Long didn't get picked until early in the fourth round, the next day. He had just gotten out of bed.

Cornerback Mike Echols was preaching to the choir on draft day in 2002. Seriously. He was in church when the Titans called him. It was an answer to his prayers. Luckily, the phone was on vibrate.

''I pretty much just walked out and answered it,'' Echols confessed. ''They put Coach (Jeff) Fisher on the phone and before long everybody came out (of church). It was pretty exciting.''

But the day can also cause a young man to lose his religion.

Receiver Jake Schifino hoped he would get drafted relatively early on the second day of the draft in 2002. As each pick flashed across the screen, however, he grew more and more frustrated until he left the house.

''I had to let out some steam a little bit, so I went down the street to my old high school and started running a few laps around the track,'' Schifino said. ''That's when the Titans called and said they were drafting me.''

Linebacker Keith Bulluck said the draft put him to sleep back in 2000. He was expecting to go anywhere from 9th to 14th in the first round. But he kept waiting and waiting until he heard a name at pick No. 17 that knocked him to the floor: Sebastian Janikowski.

''A kicker,'' Bulluck said of Oakland's first-round pick that year. ''That was it. I went to sleep for an hour-and-a-half after that.''

With the 30th pick of the draft, the Titans made Bulluck's NFL dream come true.

Players say having friends and family members around helps pass the time, but doesn't necessarily ease the mind. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and receiver Donte Stallworth, former teammates at the University of Tennessee, broke the tension by playing a practical joke on one another on draft day. At separate times, they called each other and pretended to be with a different organization.

''I got Donte,'' Haynesworth recalled. ''He was saying, ''Yes sir, yes sir, I am ready to be a Cardinal.'''

Then the Saints called Stallworth. And the Titans called Haynesworth.

On draft day, the best advice players say they could give to young players is ''brace for the worst but hope for the best.'' And try and stay calm when a player is picked in front of you that you've never heard of, especially when he plays your position.

''It's going to be a long day no matter what,'' Titans running back Chris Brown said. ''But if you get drafted, the ending is good.''

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