The 2015 draft is fast approaching. Large helmets of every NFL team are on display in Chicago as fans wait with bated breath to see who will be picked to wear their team’s jersey.
It’s hard to imagine how the prospects are mentally preparing for this notoriously unpredictable event. Some will hear their names called. Some won’t. Some will be on the field in the fall. Some won’t. Some may get their names added to the record books. And some won’t.
And some will become part of NFL history; a history packed with dramatic stories of courage and personal triumph; of miracle plays and unlikely heroes; of people from all walks of life coming together to accomplish great feats; of overcoming obstacles and of the power of true connection.
In March of 2014, I had the distinct privilege of attending the NFL 101 Awards – Kansas City’s Salute to Professional Football where I listened to several NFL history makers speak. I have yet to come up with the right words to describe what it felt like being there.
Since 1969, this prestigious annual event honors one offensive player, one defensive player and one coach in each conference for his contribution of excellence to the profession of NFL football. Beginning in 2008, the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football was added to honor the life and legacy of the late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Peyton Manning was in attendance to accept an award for the 2013 season. At first, he appeared a little worse for the wear as it had only been weeks since his disappointing Super Bowl loss. That all changed, however, when he took the stage. He told funny stories about working with Adam Gase, who was seated next to him. His face lit up recalling times on and off the field with his former teammate Robert Mathis, who was also in attendance to accept an award.
Robert Mathis chose to share the stage with his head coach Chuck Pagano. Their strong bond and mutual respect was on display for all to see. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of them.
Luke Kuechly joined the celebration via the big screen from Panther’s Fan Cruise. The huge smile across his face was a clear indication of how he felt to be included in the evening.
Andy Reid received a very warm reception from the hometown crowd when his accomplishments were showcased. The 2013 season was his first year as Head Coach and clearly everyone was thrilled to have him.
Honored as the 2013 NFC Coach of the Year, Ron Rivera shared the spotlight with the person he credits as having the single-biggest impact on his coaching career, Mike Ditka. Listening to their personal accounts can only be described as a football fanatic’s dream come true.
The most moving moment of the night came from the 2013 Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football recipient, Len Dawson. He spoke straight from the heart, with tears in his eyes, about how blessed he feels to call football his profession. There wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t touched by his testimony.
So, to those draft prospects hoping to hear their names called, I can’t imagine how you are feeling. However, by being in that room, I did get a glimpse of what is waiting for you. And it is greater that you can ever imagine.