I had a revelation on Broadway. Unlike any other event I’ve attended, the NFL Draft is infinitely better to experience in person than it is to watch on television. Accurately describing those differences will be difficult, but I’ll do my best to try.
After finding my seat in the media tent, I immediately sought out the enormous stage. It was so large, I could not fit the entire structure in the frame of my first picture.
Within a restricted area for ticketed fans just outside of the general admission area, there was initially plenty of room to walk around and see how the fans celebrated. That did not last for long. A record 600,000 people packed the streets of Nashville. Even with the massive amounts of people, the only complaints I heard were about the price of beers.
What are the chances my favorite band in all the land opened for my first NFL Draft? Slim. The first time I saw Moon Taxi perform, there were just a few hundred people crammed into Cosmic Charlie’s right before Halloween 2013. Ten shows later they’re performing in front of thousands ahead of the NFL Draft. I was one of the few getting after it during their originals, but everyone was jamming when they covered Queen and Old Town Road.
You think UK fans are crazy? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
You people are crazy. pic.twitter.com/8rsQ9CXcQM
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) April 25, 2019
Aside from all the costumes and pageantry, NFL fans are just wired differently. Some aren’t so different than us, going out of their way to know every single thing about their team. You can’t say that about every Raiders fan. When I asked who they were going to draft, one who had been well-served responded, “I don’t give a shit. We’re going to Vegas!” No, he did not know who Clelin Ferrell was.
Some fans make the NFL Draft an annual pilgrimage. This group of friends grew up in Miami before moving to different parts of the country. Each year the draft serves as their “guys trip.” While they each had a favorite team, they spent more time acting like the kids they once were, poking holes in each other’s ponchos just for the fun of it.
While most of the fans were there for the NFL teams, plenty of blue still got in to see the Jacksonville Jaguars draft Josh Allen.
If booing Roger Goodell is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Unless you’re from Philadelphia, booing is something that does not come naturally. Inherently confrontational, most believe booing an individual, especially in college athletics, goes too far. Officials are fair game, but it rarely happens in unison. The universal hatred of Goodell draws a chorus of boos unheard elsewhere. Being in the middle of it provided a sinister, albeit satisfying feeling that probably cannot be replicated elsewhere.
The boos rang throughout the night, although the weather slightly quieted the crowd as it grew late. The best was the first. (Before watching below, know one Giants fan uses NSFW language.)
As the boos fell on Goodell, the rain soaked the crowd. The slight drip quickly turned into a heavy drizzle. Luckily, lightning stayed away and the stage covered the meat and potatoes of the festivities. Meanwhile, the fans were stuck getting soggy. Like the Mississippi State game, there’s something about being in the elements that makes everybody get a little loopy. The rain loosened up the already wild crowd and created a raucous atmosphere unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Enjoying the experience as a fan was enlightening, but the real treat was going to work. Since the start of the 2018 Kentucky football season, there were a few moments that were too exciting for me to sleep until well past 3:00 a.m. Wins at Florida, Missouri, over Miss. State and in the Citrus Bowl were emotionally overwhelming. Watching the Jaguars pick Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick created that familiar feeling.
For the last year I was lucky enough to watch the most dominant defensive player in the history of the school. Allen used hard work to turn his God-given talent into one incredible play after another behind the line of scrimmage. Allen is also a genuinely great human-being, making the experience even more enriching.
After Allen was picked, he had to tend to a series of media and advertising obligations. While most waited for Allen to complete his rounds with the national media folk, I snuck backstage to see it all. Some may have used the platform to boast, not Allen. A goofy, humble person, Josh cracked jokes and checked in on his wife, Kaitlyn, and son, Wesley, at every opportunity. Wesley was a trooper. He did not cry and fought to stay awake by watching Monsters University. Wesley Allen’s big night did not end until Allen prepared for his final interview at 11:30 p.m. ET.
In the middle of an extravagant event, Allen made the life-changing night about his family, humility in its purest form.