The NFL draft came to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX and it did not disappoint. It is an annual 3 day FREE and fan friendly event which is now held in a different host city each year. While the draft goes on each day inside the stadium, the NFL brings the NFL Experience outside for fans to enjoy. (The NFL Experience is the same massive outdoor fan fest that the NFL brings with the Superbowl each year to the host city.)
The event is free, but ticketed to make sure everyone has a seat. It was a complete “sellout” quickly, but the NFL has an efficient structure to identify “no shows” and get fans in the building from a waiting list.
Most coveted however were the “Inner Circle” tickets. There are only 50 such tickets allotted to each team. With these passes you actually sit in a pre-designated section on the field, right in front of the stage, with team specific gift bags and face to face time with the new draft picks and former NFL players. I brought my entire family to the draft, and was blessed with inner circle tickets from a friend who couldn’t use them. It was an amazing experience I put on par with attending a Stanley Cup game, and I’ll never forget it. Somehow, I sat in the fourth row.
NFL Draft Highlights:
Being present at the NFL draft with my family and friends was a lifelong dream for me. But if I had to pick a few highlights, there are a couple moments that stand out.
The best moment of the draft wasn’t one of the trades or picks made by a team, but rather something the Buffalo Bills did for one of their fans. On the second day or the draft, during the announcement for the Bills third round pick, retired Bills players Fred Jackson and Andre Reed called on Ezra Castro, a Bills fan who is battling cancer, to come on the stage and read the pick. It was an emotional moment for everyone around, with everyone from Michael Irvin to Dolphins fans nearby wiping away tears as the Buffalo fans shouted so loud you would have thought Scott Norwood made a certain field goal, or Brett Hull had been called for standing in the goal crease. I’ll never forget it.
During the Patriots draft picks, fans throughout the “inner circle” seating chanted “Cheaters! Cheaters!” so loud we could not hear who the Patriots drafted. It may not have made it to the broadcast, but I’ve got this photo of a young Dolphins fan who went out of his way to commemorate the success of the New England Patriots.