Draft day, 18 hours of choices and deals, long shots and steals, dawns this morning at 8 for the National Football League.
It is centered in New York, at the Omni Park Central Hotel, where Commissioner Pete Rozelle will kick things off by announcing Buffalo's choice of Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith, already signed and sealed, and now formally delivered.
But its sideshows -- dramatic, emotional and, in some cases, heartwrenching -- will take place in dorm rooms and living rooms around the nation.
"It's driving me crazy trying to think about it," said Maryland quarterback Frank Reich, who is hoping to become the second consecutive Terrapin to be the first quarterback taken in the draft. Last year, Boomer Esiason was selected in the second round by Cincinnati.
"You wait all this time just for one day, for one phone call," Reich said yesterday. "I don't want to put myself through too much."
Although the entire draft will be televised by ESPN, Reich, who is projected as an early-round pick, won't watch. He spent draft day last year with Esiason, who expected to be a first-round choice and instead agonized for several hours in front of his TV set.
Maryland center Kevin Glover, who might go to New England in the first round, is considering joining Reich in his dorm room. Glover says he has "no expectations."
"Some guys come into college with the dream of being a pro," he said. "I never even thought about being a pro until my junior year. If I'm drafted (early), I'll probably go crazy and run around the campus."
At least one other Maryland senior, linebacker Eric Wilson, is expected to be drafted, probably in the middle rounds, he guessed.
Really," he said, "I don't have a clue. I'm starting to get a little nervous."
Reich, Glover and Wilson should be the local cover boys for the NFL's golden anniversary draft. It's also a draft of no pretenses, which is one of the reasons the Washington Redskins gladly dumped their first-round choice to obtain running back George Rogers and three later picks.
You heard of the No-Name defense a decade or so ago in Miami? How about the No-Name draft?
The biggest names are attached to big men. After Smith, the third pick will be Texas A&M defensive lineman Ray Childress, to Houston. Offensive tackle Bill Fralic of Pittsburgh also is expected to go in the first four picks.
But to whom? The Minnesota Vikings, the recent loser in the Bernie Kosar Sweepstakes (Kosar will be in a supplemental draft later and is going to Cleveland), want Fralic with their second pick in the draft. But Fralic doesn't want them.
"In the past, the Vikings have been cheap," said Fralic, doing his best John Elway "don't draft me" imitation. "There is no reason to believe they won't be cheap this time . . . By not drafting me, they can save themselves some trouble and save me some trouble."
The Vikings remain undaunted, saying they will pick whomever they please. But it's likely Atlanta (fourth pick overall) or Dallas (17th) might swing a trade with the Vikings to get their pick and Fralic. Then, the Vikings may go for Miami wide receiver Eddie Brown; ironically, Kosar's favorite target in college.
The Oilers, still sore over the decision to allow Kosar to go to Cleveland, almost pre-empted the entire draft yesterday. After mulling legal action against the NFL, Houston President Bud Adams said the team would not go ahead with its threats because the Vikings would not agree to participate in a court challenge.
Don't cry for the Oilers. Houston, which traded with the Vikings in one of the two Kosar deals, lost the second-round pick it would have received from Minnesota but still has two first-round choices and five of the first 87 picks in the draft.
Linemen, wide receivers (Al Toon, Jerry Rice), and running backs (Ethan Horton, George Adams, Greg Allen) are expected to be gobbled up before most of civilization has finished breakfast. Two interesting names to follow are quarterback Doug Flutie and running back Herschel Walker, both available and undoubtedly coveted should the U.S. Football League fold, but likely not before the third round in each case.
Then again, one never knows.
"I've followed the last few drafts, so I'm having fun speculating where I'll go, in what round," Reich said. "But I'm speculating to myself. I don't want to say. Every year, you see funny things happen in the draft."
Causing these funny things are the general managers, the men who get bleary-eyed looking at boards containing lists of names.
The Redskins' general manager, Bobby Beathard, might have made his best move last week when he traded for Rogers. But that doesn't mean it's his only move.
"There's always the chance of a trade," Beathard said yesterday. The Redskins will not trade anyone or anything to get a first-round pick, he said, which means they may have to wait until lunchtime for their first selection, the 51st overall, in the second round.
Best guesses are that the team's top choice will be an offensive lineman or defensive back.
Glover, Maryland's cocaptain with Wilson last season and from Largo High School, would love it to be him. His favorite team has always been the Redskins. Beathard would love to have him, but . . .
"There's no chance," Beathard said. "He'll be long gone by the time we pick."
Possibly. Says Reich, "You never know."