The top prize is gone, to Heisman trophy winner Earl Camphell of Texas, but the rest of the overachievers and underachievers will be sitting by the telephone today and tomorrow with the same anxieties of persons who buy Irish Sweepstakes tickets.
The selection of college players in the annual National Football League draft will be by telephone and will begin at 10 a.m., with the headquarters in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. The clubs will draft 12 rounds in the inverse order of how they finished last season. Usually, seven rounds are completed the first day.
The Houston Oilers have the first pick as a result of a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will choose Camphell. The Oilers gave up their first and second-round choices for this year and their third and fifth for 1979, plus tight end Jimmy Giles.
Leaving aside the question of whether the draft imposes involuntary servitude, the grubstakes that will be fall the fortunate would be grist for Heratio Alger.
Judging by the contracts given to Helsman trophy winner Tony Dorsett and Ricky Bell in 1977, Campbell can expect something like a $1.2 million deal for five seasons.
The minimum salary for a rookie is $15,000, $20,000 if he makes a club's active list rather than the taxi squad. And for the higher quality prospects there is usually a hefty bonus for signing.
The average salary for NFL, players in 1977 was $55,228, including signing bonuses and in far more cases the draftee gets a signing bonus than the veteran signing a new contract.
There are pensions down the road for those who manage to play for five or more seasons.
The survivors of the traning camp testing often are capitalizing on a big opportunity to improve on the life they knew on the farm, the mine, the barrio, the ghetto or even as a member of the middle class.
As a comparison, a recent issue of "Student Lawyer" reported a survey showed an attorney in his first year out of of graduate school may earn from a low of $11,000 with small firms in Dallas, Denver, Houston and San Diego to $28,000 annually with a leading New York City firm or $25,000 in Washington.
Of course, lawyers are not drafted and thus do not have pretty much automatic price tags put on their services.
Initially,a football player is rated by his position and on what round he is taken. But some No. 1 draft choices have failed miserably and there are enduring stories of longshots making it big.
Running back Don Nottingham was the 442nd and last pick of the 1971 draft but is still collecting a salary from the Miami Dolphins. Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts made a fortune as a free agent. Chris Hanburger was drafted on the 18th round; Bart Starr of Green Bay on the 17th; so was Pat Fisher by St. Louis, Raymond Berry was taken by the Colts on the 20th round.
These are said to be about the going rates for rookies without All-America backgrounds.
Quarterbacks - $30,000, running backs - $27,500, wide receivers - $24,000, tight ends - $24,000, centers - $22,000, guards - $22,000, tackles - $22,000, and placekickers - $20,000.
On defense, ends - $24,000, tackles - $24,000, outside linebackers - $22,000, middle linebackers - $24,000, corner-backs - $20,000, safties - $20,000 and punters - $20,000.