Finally! THE 1981 NFL DRAFT
THE DAY OF DAYS ……..
April 28; 5:55 am, a Tuesday I’ll never forget….. A defining day… a day that would impact my life Forever.
“No one makes a call or touches the phone,” I instructed my roommates. ……. I woke early, I never really slept. After attending to my immediate morning concerns, I bolted to the small living room I shared with my 3 college roommates and planted myself in the undersized recliner alongside the old Rotary phone. I quickly snatched the receiver to assure it was working …. a dial tone! “But we have a Party Line.” Would they tie up the phone today?
For Now – All systems GO!!!
As I sat pondering my future. I slowly drifted off ….., with little to no sleep the night before, it was a predictable outcome. I slumbered for more than an hour in the rickety recliner before I awoke….
“#&*@%” I spewed as a wave of anxiety swept over me……… Did I just sleep through the most important moment of my life?
“No, no, not likely,” I answered aloud trying to calm my demons? It was just after 9 am as the house was slowly coming to life – I could hear my roommates rustling around upstairs. Admittedly, I was on edge and not much fun to be around – so my roomies wished me luck and quickly vacated the premises. “You going to class today” John joked intentionally poking the bear. I smirked then scowled at his misplaced humor. “Good luck,” he added while walking out the door.
Well not exactly; it was me, my dreams, my apprehension, my guarded optimism, and the old rotary phone crowded into the small space.
Back home my dad, brothers, and grandfather were headed to a local movie theater to watch the draft……..it was on a new cable sports network I’d never heard of called ESPN, (an acronym I thought described paranormal abilities like reading minds or predicting the future). There was no plan in place for my family to call or keep me informed because I didn’t want anyone tying up the phone. Nine o’clock slowly crept to ten, then eleven and by noon I was wondering if this was going to happen…. I didn’t know what round they were in, or who had been selected…. Nothing!
Still no word at one, by 2 pm my roommates returned from class, quickly regrouped, and relinquished the house again. They didn’t have to ask as they could read it on my face – No One Had Called!
“#*%@,” I screamed at the phone … it was just after 3 pm when I decided, “I’m getting out of here! I’m hungry, and it’s likely this ain’t happening!
Desperately needing to flee, a change of scenery, some fresh air, and maybe a few brews. “This isn’t happening.” my skeptical side screamed. Sweats, a hoodie to hide my face, and flip flops …….. I was heading out the door when suddenly, the thunderous metallic clattering of the old dial phone silenced all skepticism…… My heart jumped, then raced – my senses lit up like a pinball machine – High Alert! …. “This is it????” .. I took a long step with the foot closest to the phone, then another – Perfect Footwork – like pulling on a trap or leading a sweep I pounced on the phone. “Hello,” I shouted as a rush of adrenaline kick in.
“Don, Don Greco” the voice inquired. “YES,” I replied recognizing I was out of breath. “Please hold,” the unidentified voice added. “#%*@,” I thought, “I’ve been holding all day.”
“Don, this is Monte Clark, congratulations, we’re getting ready to draft you.”
There was no mention of what round as the muffled voice in the background announced “In the third round, of the 1981 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select Don Greco offensive guard Western Illinois.” Admittedly, it was pretty cool getting to hear it happen in real-time…… I don’t remember much after that…Coach Clark briefly welcomed me before handing me off to make travel plans for the upcoming rookie minicamp. When I hung up the phone a moment of gratitude engulfed me, the dream had manifested but now a new journey was beginning. I celebrated that night with friends and teammates, then drove to St. Louis on Thursday for my Friday flight to Detroit. My family, friends and a surprise party greeted me. The local papers and news stations reached out…… its time to REFOCUS..
As George Turner use to tell me, “Celebrations are for quitters! Those with no plans of going any further.”
Friday Off to Detroit ……. I peered out the window of my childhood bedroom and spied a group of kids gathered outside for a glimpse of the neighborhood’s first NFL player…… a small army, on a bevy of bikes and footballs tucked under their arms – “That was me less than a decade ago,” I smiled as I went out to greet them… “Dream Big, anything is possible.” A part of me envied those kids, those future Gridiron Legends – it’s all in front of you …, “Enjoy the journey!” I thought ,,,,, Michigan here I come!