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With the 2013 NFL Draft just seven days away, Dolphins.com is reminiscing with some of your favorite former Miami Dolphins about their draft day experiences.
Today we catch up with linebacker Kim Bokamper, selected in the first round (19th overall) of the 1976 NFL Draft out of San Jose State, cornerback Sam Madison, taken in the second round (44th overall) of the 1997 draft out of Louisville and linebacker Twan Russell, selected in the fifth round (148th overall) of the 1997 draft out of the University of Miami by the Washington Redskins.
What stands out to you the most from your Draft Day experience?
Kim Bokamper: “My Draft Day experience I think was different than people now. We didn’t have ESPN, you had no radio coverage and you didn’t know where you were going to be drafted. We just had to wait around and get a phone call. The most memorable thing that happened to me on Draft Day was I got a call about three hours into the draft. I picked up the phone, someone says, ‘Is this Kim Bokamper?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘This is Paul Brown from the Cincinnati Bengals. We just drafted you with our first pick in the draft. What do you think about that?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m ecstatic to be a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.’ And then all of a sudden I here some guy go, ‘Got you.’ It was a buddy of mine pulling a prank call, so I got through that and about 20 minutes later I got a call from the Miami Dolphins and I had to ask twice, ‘Are you sure this is Don Shula?’ Because I wanted to make sure I didn’t get pranked again, so that was probably the most memorable thing.”
Sam Madison: “Well, what stands out the most is you never know what can happen on Draft Day. Throughout the whole entire week-and-a-half leading up to it I talked to two teams. I talked to Pittsburgh very heavily and the Philadelphia Eagles. I didn’t talk not one time to the Miami Dolphins and then eventually Jimmy Johnson’s on the phone and I become a Miami Dolphin.”
Twan Russell: “I’ve got the funniest story in America on draft day. I’m sitting in my mom’s living room and I was super nervous. I didn’t really expect to go the first day but my agent told me I’d be somewhere between the third and the sixth round, so I was optimistic and I’m sitting watching the draft and enjoying it. The first round goes, the second round goes and we’re watching the third round and all of a sudden out of nowhere I get a phone call from the Detroit Lions. And they go, ‘Hey, we’re on the clock, we’re seriously thinking about taking you. Are you ready? You want to be a Detroit Lion?’ And I say, ‘Absolutely.’ I’m getting excited, I’m jumping up and down and my mom’s excited so they say, ‘All right, so stay tuned. We’ll be calling you back in a second.’ So we’re watching the television and we’re watching the third round and I see the Detroit Lions come up so I’m thinking here we go. All of a sudden, ‘Matt Russell taken by the Detroit Lions.’ I lost it. I’m sitting here sick to my stomach and I’m mad and I’m frustrated and my mom was like, ‘It’ll be all right baby.’ Half the people in the room didn’t even know what was going on because we didn’t want to make a bug deal out of it. So that was the first day so I had to sleep overnight on that on that one. The next day I was drafted in the fifth round by the Redskins, which was cool because Denard Lang, who was at the University of Miami with me and a good friend of mine, he was drafted there in the first round so we were able to go there together and I was super excited. I think the second time was better than the first because I was just relieved at that point. So that was probably what stood out on Draft Day. It was funny.”
What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position as far as special workouts, etc.?
Bokamper: “Well again, it was very different than most people because we didn’t have a Combine and my year was the year they were trying to outlaw the draft. So the draft was supposed to be in April and I don’t think the draft was until May and we never knew when the draft was. It was just an ongoing legal situation so you kind of had to stay in shape, but for me getting ready for the draft was working out for teams. I’d get a call from the football coaches’ office and they’d say, ‘Hey, there’s two guys here this afternoon and they want to work you out,’ So I’d go work out for two different guys and the next day you’d get another one and so it was quite different than the way things are now. Everyday was a Pro Day for me, let’s put it that way.”
Madison: “Coming out of Louisville you didn’t have many big name guys in the football program really go ahead of you. A couple of years before you had Ray Buchanan, so I just really focused on the 40 and worked on my bench press and things like that. I knew I could do the shuttle and all of those things, I was quick and everything but the 40 was one of my main things that I really wanted to focus on. I went out and I did pretty well at the Combine, but I did even better once I made it to my Pro Day.”
Russell: “I trained with the track coach at the University of Miami and I ran track in college so for me running came naturally. But I was injured my senior season, got hurt on the last play of our bowl game and it was just a fluke deal so I was rehabbing most of the time. I did train a little bit for running and lifting but not what these guys are doing. I just kind of showed up and did my thing.”
Was there something about your interviews with prospective coaches before the draft that stood out?
Bokamper: “No. The only thing that stood out to me was that me and everybody else that was close to being drafted thought they were going to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, because they sent you a letter everyday and they sent you bumper stickers and everything, so everybody thought that they were going to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and very few were, including myself.”
Madison: “One of the things during my senior year, Ron Cooper, he was a defensive minded guy but we didn’t have many wide receivers, so throughout that whole entire season I was one of the versatile players being able to play offense and defense and being able to catch balls on the offensive side of the field. So a lot of scouts and coaches were asking me, ‘Would you be willing to play wide receiver?” I was like, ‘No. I’m not going to go on the offensive side. Just leave me at defensive back.’ So that was really one of those questions that I got regularly from the scouts and the coaches, but I knew I was a defensive back. O.J. (McDuffie) always said it, they move defensive backs to the defensive side of the ball because you can’t catch.”
Russell: “Believe it or not, I didn’t have a lot of interviews. In fact, when I went to the Combine I was injured so I took probably more tests than anybody else because I hurt my knee the last game of the year in our bowl game, in the Carquest Bowl. When I went to the Combine I remember being up late as they were checking my knee and tugging my knee. I did interviews but back then we used to take these long tests. I remember the Giants gave me a test with like 400 questions on it. I was so tired and that was the first thing I did when I got there. You took this long psychological test with stupid questions like, ‘You’re in a room and someone’s robbing your wife and he has a gun. What do you do?’ The first answer was like do you run, the second one was do you try to get the gun? What do you learn? I guess he’s going to say I’m a coward. I’m exaggerating the question but it was crazy. I interviewed with five teams but there were no crazy questions. They put me on the board and asked me to draw plays and where does the tackle go on this play, so they just wanted to know what my football IQ was and what kind of person I was and what I knew.”
Where were you on Draft Day?
Bokamper: “I was at my brother’s apartment. It was the only place I knew that had a phone. I was in college and there were no cell phones.”
Madison: “I was in Atlanta at my brother’s house. I had a lot of my family and friends up because it was my birthday weekend, so it was a very good birthday gift in 1997.”
Russell: “We were in my mom’s living room with the big tube television back then, one of the big floor models, sitting on the couch. I knew I was going to be late round guy, second day, so we watched the first day just to make sure, but I went the second day. It was cool and it’s one of those things when you’re name is called you’re thinking I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old and now I’m 22 years old and I’m going to be able to live my dream and have an opportunity to do something great. So it was cool for me.”
How did you celebrate being drafted?
Bokamper: “I got drunk. I did. I went out and I drank beer with my friends and I got drunk.”
Madison: “Really, I was just hanging with my boys. Knowing Jimmy Johnson, I was coming to Miami to play for him so I didn’t really want to go too wild and crazy and do something to hurt my situation that I was in. So I was just soaking it all in, wanted to get back to Louisville and see the coaches and the team before I headed out. It’s totally different now because the next week after you get drafted you’re at minicamps so you have to get yourself ready to go.”
Russell: “My mom made a lot of food and I was trying to gain weight so I ate it all. I didn’t really celebrate because for me I didn’t feel like anything special because I was a fifth-round pick and I knew the Redskins brought in four linebackers. I knew I had to get up there and work so for me it wasn’t about celebrating. It was about preparing myself for training camp, so when I got up there I wanted to make sure I was going to be the best linebacker I could be.”
What advice would you give to this year’s class of draft choices?
Bokamper: “My advice would be, don’t think just because you got drafted, whether it’s in the first round or the seventh round, that you’ve got a job and that you’ve got a position on the team. You need to go out and earn it.”
Madison: “A lot of guys think as soon as you get drafted you’ve made it. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, so you’ve done a lot of the things to get you here so far, now you need to learn and build on the small things and understand that it is a game, but now it’s your job. I’m not going to practice anymore, I’m going to work because there are a lot of guys that depend on you. When you get into that locker room you’re going to be dealing with 38-year-old guys, you’re going to be dealing with 21-year-old guys and you’re going to be dealing with guys with families. So there’s going to be a lot of mood swings. You just have to be able to deal with those, try to find your lane and the sky’s the limit because even though I went in the second round, a couple of years before Jimmy cut a guy that went in the second round. So I just wanted to stay focused and come into a football team that was very veteran heavy, learn what I was supposed to do and hopefully I could contribute in some kind of way, which I was able to do my rookie year through special teams”
Russell: “I would give them two pieces of advice. Number one, don’t spend your money before you get it. That’s number one. If I could tell every guy from a financial standpoint, put it in the bank and just get used to having it. Don’t do anything. Literally stick it in the bank and don’t do anything with it. Just get used to having it. And the other thing is, come in ready to play football. Be physically prepared, mentally prepared, ask questions and be open-minded. Don’t be a punk. You want to be the guy that’s willing to do anything. Pay attention to what the veterans are doing. Get in line and play football. Don’t come in like you’re somebody already. You still have to earn that position. The guys that come in and earn a position are the guys that play 10 or 15 years. The guys that come in and feel like they’re entitled or they’re special, those are the guys that end up doing something stupid and they never get off the ground because they mistake off the field.”