(NFL Draft No. 1 pick Russell Maryland photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys)
(Larry Brown cover photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Talk of Fame Network
As the NFL Draft gets closer, the Talk of Fame Network guys continue to explore what to expect from the unique perspectives of people who have been through the process.
Last week that included Jerry Angelo, who was the general manager of a Super Bowl team. This week’s guests are former overall No. 1 draft pick Russell Maryland and former last-round pick and Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown. Each brings a different point of view to the NFL Draft and what this year’s potential draft picks are going through and how to deal with it.
The Dallas Cowboys made Maryland the first selection in 1991 after Notre Dame’s Raghib “Rocket” Ismail stunned the NFL by signing with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. That led Maryland’s college coach at Miami, Jimmy Johnson, to opt for the massive defensive lineman.
“There was a lot of pressure,’’ recalled Maryland when asked about the first day he walked into a Cowboys’ locker room filled with former No. 1 picks like Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith. “First day in the locker room, all the eyes were on me. (No. 1 overall picks) are supposed to be skill players … and we got this? They were unimpressed and disappointed.’’
Maryland handled the pressure that comes with being the overall No. 1 pick by thinking back to his experiences at Miami, one of the nation’s best and most notorious college programs at the time.
“I’d just spent five years with trained killers!’’ joked Maryland, who became a starter at defensive tackle his rookie season and was an anchor of the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl champions.
Brown came from the opposite end of the NFL Draft spectrum. He was the 17th and final player taken by Dallas in the 12th and final round that same draft. Of the 334 players taken that year he was the only one ever to become a Super Bowl MVP. He also started his rookie season, an unusual circumstance for a late-round pick.
“I had a coach in Jimmy Johnson who wanted to play the best players,’’ Brown recalled. “He didn’t care where you were drafted. He gave me an opportunity.’’
So what advice would Brown give this year’s potential late-round picks?
“I’d say don’t watch the draft,’’ Brown said. “There’s a lot of speculation. A lot of phone calls (from teams) that they want to take you … It's nerve wracking. I thought Atlanta was going to take me. I talked with them seven times.’’
One player potentially in that spot this year is Harvard tight end Ben Braunecker. Three Harvard-produced tight ends are presently in the NFL. Braunecker hopes to extend that streak but admits he didn’t go to Harvard with an eye on the NFL.
He majored in molecular and cellular biology with an eye toward medical school or becoming a researcher. That led to being asked the most unexpected question at this year’s combine – what he thought of the Zika virus plaguing Brazil.
Harvard’s players leave each summer with a reading list from head coach Tim Murphy. It does not include their play book. But it did include a book Braunecker may find helpful on draft day.
“I did read a book on survival,’’ he said. “Who lives and who doesn’t and why. It was called Deep Survival.’’
That’s what the draft will be all about for the over 300 players taken in several weeks, a process Maryland and Brown survived and one Ben Braunecker is approaching with the same zeal.
“I want to play football now,’’ Braunecker said. “I want to be a doctor or a scientist later. A lot of people at Harvard do what they’re passionate about.’’
Our Talk of Fame guys certainly do. They’re passionate about the draft, the NFL and the history of the game and this week they explore all three. Host Clark Judge makes a Hall-of-Fame case for 1960s' New York Giant deep threat receiver Del Shofner while co-host Ron Borges argues why Colin Kaepernick should consider accepting a nearly $5 million pay cut to move from the struggling 49ers to the Super Bowl-champion Broncos.
Our guys also debate the biggest news stories of the week, pick their favorite NFL music in honor of this weekend’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductions (Hail to the Redskins?) and name their best last-round picks in NFL history.
There’s that and more on the two-hour show which can be heard on 80 radio stations around the country, on the Talk of Fame podcast at iTunes or by using the TuneIn app. It can also be heard at talkoffamenetwork.com.