The Buffalo Bills honored linebacker Tom Cousineau today by making him the first selection in the National Football League draft. Cousineau responded by brashly saying, "I'm going to try to make the fans forget Dick Butkus."
Uninhibited after playing under Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Cousineau met the media wearing a diamond in his left ear lobe. He also lifted his right pant leg to show a gaudy tattoo.
Still, it was San Diego that grabbed center stage on the first day of the two-day meeting by making a trade with Cleveland that enabled the Chargers to take tight end Kellen Winslow of Missouri as the 13th pick of the first round.
The wonder was now Winslow lasted that long. When combined with the Chargers' deal with the Green Bay Packers last week for defensive back Willie Buchanon, the talk was that San Diego would become a strong contender in the American Conference's Western Division race.
Maryland running back Steve Atkins was not taken until the second round when tapped by Green Bay.
Green Bay also drafted Maryland defensive tackle Charles Johnson, in the third round.
Michigan fullback Russell Davis and Richmond defensive back Jeff Nixon, both of whom played high school ball in Woodbridge, Va., were fourth-round choices of Pittsburgh and Buffalo, respectively.
New York Giants fans in the gallery here on the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel groaned, then booed at the first choice made under the Giants new football operation headed by General Manager George Young and Coach Ray Perkins.
The pick was quarterback Phil Simms of Morehead State. The New Yorkers were hoping that Jack Thompson, the "Throwin' Samoan" from Washington State, would be available on the seventh pick of the round.
But Cincinnati crossed up the predraft expectations with the third pick of the first round by taking Thompson rather than tight end Winslow.
Cincinnati also had the 12th pick of the round and grabbed off running back Charles Alexander of Louisiana State.
The Los Angeles Rams were interested in Thompson and Winslow. The draft room buzzed with curiosity about why they were not able to swing a trade.
The Rams went into the draft with two first-round choices, a No. 2, two Nos. 3 and two Nos. 4.
Cincinnati made up in the second round for not picking Winslow by selecting tight end Dan Ross of Northeastern, whom the Washington Redskins had rated good enough to start as a rookie.
Buffalo used the No. 5 choice in the first found to take wide receiver Jerry Butler of Clemson.
After Kansas City chose defensive end Mike Bell of Colorado State, Chicago spent two first-round picks for defensive tackle Dan Hampton of Arkansas and defensive end Al Harris of Arizona State.
Kansas City, having passed up Thompson, got quarter back Steve fuller of Clemson with its second pick of the round.
The Baltimore Colts got the line-backer they wanted, Barry Drauss of Alabama, rated just behind Cousineau.
New Orleans flouted custom by spending its No. 1 selection on super placekicker-punter Russell Erxleben of Texas.
Los Angeles took linebacker George Andrewo of Nebraska and offensive tackle Kent Hill of Georgia Tech with its first-round selections.
Quality guards Greg Roberts of Oklahoma and Pat Howell of Southern California were not selected until the second round, respectively by Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
The two runners-up to the 1978 Heisman Trophy winner, junior halfback Billy Sims of Oklahoma, were not chosen until the fifth round. Michigan quarterback Rick Leach was taken by the Denver Broncos. Penn State quarterback Chuck Fusina went to Tampa Bay.
The Redskins' NFC East rivals strengthened themselves with some familiar players in the first two rounds.Besides quarterback Simms, said to have a stronger arm than Thompson, the Giants landed wide receiver Ernest Gray of Memphis State.
St. Louis picked two running backs, Ottis Anderson of Miami (Fla.) and Theotis Brown of UCLA. Philadelphia grabbed high-rated linebacker Jerry Robinson of UCLA, guard Petey Perot of Northwest Louisiana and placekicker Tony Franklin of Texas A & M. Dallas chose center Robert Shaw of Tennessee and defensive backs Aaron Mitchell of Nevada-Las Vegas and Tim Lavender of Southern California, brother of the Redskins' Joe.
Cousineau, who says his name is pronounced Koo-Sin-Oh, explained he is of French extraction, "a direct descendant of Napoleon," He said retired Hall of Famer Butkus was his hero as a youngster, but he had a No. 50 jersey for the television cameras and said, "I'm going to make the fans forget No. 51 (Butkus)."
Asked about the diamond in his left car, he said, "I was shot by a BB gun. No, it's really a Christmas gift from mother." Of the tattoo on his leg, a diagram of a sunburst and a shark, he said Hayes knew about it but did not object. "I got it done in Columbus. I needed a little sunshine in my life."
Much of his attention-getting act could be attributed to the agent he has engaged, Jimmy Walsh, who also had a client named Joe Namsth.
There were three trades today. Cleveland swapped its first-round choice to San Diego for the Chargers' first- and second-round choices. San Diego chose Winslow and the Brows selected wide receiver Willis Adams of Houston and offensive tackle Sam Claphan of Oklahoma.
Houston traded its first-round choice to Kansas City for the Chiefs' 1979 and 1980 second-round choices. Kansas City selected Fuller and the Oilers took defensive end Mike Stensrud of Iowa State.
Louis traded a second-round choice to Oakland for the Raiders' second-and fifth-round choices. Oakland selected defensive end Willie Jones of Florida State and the Cardinals took linebacker Calvin Fauron of Southeast Louisiana and wide receiver Mark Bell of Colorado State.
The first six rounds took 10 hours 35 minutes and there will be six more rounds Friday.
Of 165 players selected today, there were 85 offensive players, 75 defensive and five specialists chosen.
The last player selected today was placekicker Matt Bahr of Penn State, by Pittsburgh. His brother is a placekicker for Cincinnate.