U-Va.'s Long Is 1st Pick of Day, 2nd of Brisk Proceedings
Sunday, April 27, 2008
NEW YORK, April 26 -- The picks came fast and furious and the surprises were relatively mild on the opening day of the NFL draft. The consolation prize went to University of Virginia defensive end Chris Long, who was chosen by the St. Louis Rams with the second overall selection soon after the proceedings got under way Saturday afternoon at Radio City Music Hall.
The opening pick was anticlimactic, having been decided five days before the draft when the Miami Dolphins signed Michigan tackle Jake Long to a contract Tuesday. Once the formality of the Dolphins' selection of Jake Long had been announced Saturday, the Rams grabbed Chris Long and the Atlanta Falcons made quarterback Matt Ryan of Boston College the third overall pick.
The rest of the first round was dominated by linemen. Seven tackles were taken in the draft's first 21 picks, and eight in the first round. Seven defensive linemen were selected in the opening round. There also were the expected first-round runs on tailbacks and cornerbacks, with five each. The most welcome development for league officials, however, was that the first round was completed in 3 1/2 hours, making it the quickest opening round since 1990.
"I take that as a sign of improvement," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who shortened the time limit for picks in the first two rounds after last year's 6-hour, 8-minute opening round, said from the podium.
But the day belonged to Chris Long, given that the Dolphins' choice of Jake Long had come so far in advance of the draft. The Rams were thought to be torn between Chris Long and Louisiana State defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. They went with Long, perhaps the best pass rusher in the draft.
"It was a huge adrenaline rush," Chris Long said, having added a Rams cap to a draft day ensemble that included an orange tie for his school. "Best moment of my life. . . . I'll try to go in and learn from the veterans and be worth the pick. I'm very humbled by it. It's just great to be part of an organization. I want to get to work. . . . It's exciting. It means I have a lot to learn and a lot to prove."
Long was accompanied backstage by his father Howie, the Oakland Raiders Hall of Famer who now is a broadcaster on Fox's NFL studio show.
"He was very nervous," Chris Long said. "He was more nervous than me."
The elder Long has tried to stay out of the spotlight when it has come to his son's career, and he mostly remained in the background Saturday as he struggled to put into words the emotions he was feeling.
"I'm not sure," Howie Long said. "I don't think it's really sunk in yet. We're somewhat relieved, excited. It's a rainbow of emotions. You know you're alive. . . . The only thing I've ever said to Chris, honest to God, is to, 'Be you. You do that well.' Like him or don't like him, he's him."
He said he was happy to see his son go to an organization that wanted him, but made it clear that he hadn't changed his own NFL allegiance. "I'm a Raider," he said.
The comparisons will be inevitable, and Howie Long was asked to make one on draft day. "He's light years ahead of me in terms of maturity," he said. "He's probably mentally tougher than I was at that age. He has a great sense of the moment. I was kind of day-to-day. Of course, I was making 38 grand. So I was day-to-day."