GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The NFL Draft analysts have worked overtime lately dissecting players like frogs in a biology class. They have studied and reviewed everything from the players’ times in the 40 to how much their weight fluctuated in college to their potential branding power in the NFL.
With the draft set for Thursday night, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has already been told by the Colts that they will use the No. 1 overall pick on him. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, last season’s Heisman winner, is expected to go No. 2 to the Redskins.
Luck spent the final weekend before the draft in Duluth, Ga., watching his girlfriend compete for Stanford in the NCAA Gymnastics Championships. As he rode a hotel elevator to the lobby on Saturday morning, Luck listened to baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan – Morgan’s daughter is also a member of Stanford’s gymnastics team – talk about the circus-like atmosphere of the draft.
The draft’s overblown coverage was part of the reason that Gators defensive line coach Bryant Young, a projected top-10 pick 18 years ago, stayed away from the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York on his draft night. A standout defensive tackle at Notre Dame, Young preferred the company of those closest to him rather than the bright lights of the draft.
“I stayed home with my family in Chicago Heights,’’ Young said. “I just didn’t want to venture out and do that. I felt it was important to be around my family. I just didn’t want to be on that stage basically.”
Young had witnessed other players expected to be picked high in the draft wait uncomfortably as name after name was called before theirs. He always felt bad for them as they squirmed in their seats.
Notorious for his blue-collar approach and low-key personality, Young felt confident he would go high after taking trips to Seattle and New England leading up to the 1994 draft.
“Those two teams in particular were pretty interested,’’ he said.
Still, the teams’ interest was not enough for Young to make the trip to New York.
“You can never be sure. I didn’t want to buy into that,’’ he said. “I knew I had done as much as I could up to that point, but at the same time, I felt more comfortable being at home.
“It’s a hard day when you don’t go as high as you think you’ll go.”
Of course, Young had nothing to worry about other than for an unexpected – and pleasant -- surprise.
After Cincinnati took Ohio State defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson first overall and Indianapolis took running back Marshall Faulk second, Washington chose Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler third. Young thought he might hear his name called fourth with New England on the clock.
Instead, the Patriots selected USC defensive end/linebacker Willie McGinest. The Colts followed by choosing Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts fifth, and Tampa Bay picked Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer with the sixth pick.
However, with the Rams on the clock at No. 7, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that San Francisco had traded up to get the seventh pick.
Young had talked briefly with some 49ers officials at the NFL Combine but that was it. They didn’t show a lot of interest in his view. He figured his next shot at being drafted was by Seattle at No. 8.
“I thought they were off the radar because they finished pretty high [in 1993] and just missed the Super Bowl,’’ Young said. “They wind up trading one pick up and one pick down. That surprised me.”
Shortly after seeing Tagliabue on the TV screen announcing the trade between the Rams and 49ers, Young got a phone call from San Francisco official Vinny Cerrato. Young was heading to San Francisco.
“You are going to be a Niner,’’ Young recalls Cerrato, former general manager of the Redskins, telling him over the phone.
Young was excited and relieved and overwhelmed all in one. His dream of playing in the NFL was now a reality.
The crowd of more than 40 family and friends at his house celebrated.
“Once the news got out there were more people that came over,’’ he said. “It was a great day.”
The scene isn’t hard to imagine for Florida fans that have seen the documentary film “Tim Tebow: Everything In Between.” The film traces Tebow’s steps from the moment he finished his last game at Florida until he was picked by the Broncos in the first round of the 2010 draft.
Like Young, Tebow watched the draft at home in Jacksonville with family and friends in part due to uncertainty over his draft status.
Young made sure the 49ers didn’t waste the pick, spending all 14 of his seasons in the NFL with San Francisco and having a better career than either Wilkinson or Sam Adams, the other two defensive tackles among the first eight players selected in the 1994 draft.
Nearly 20 years later, Young remains content that he stayed home and out of the spotlight on draft day.
“That wasn’t me,’’ he said. “I was kind of a behind-the-scenes type of guy. That’s something I wasn’t looking for. In terms of going to find the attention, I wasn’t doing that.”