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With the 2013 NFL Draft just a few weeks away, Dolphins.com will be reminiscing with some of your favorite former Miami Dolphins about their draft day experiences.
Today we catch up with defensive end Jeff Cross, selected in the ninth round (239th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft out of Missouri, linebacker John Offerdahl, selected in the second round (52nd overall) of the 1986 NFL Draft out of Western Michigan and safety Shawn Wooden, selected in the sixth round (189th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame.
What stands out to you the most from your Draft Day experience?
Jeff Cross: “Not much to be honest with you because I was in the middle of final exams. All I know is that I didn’t go the first day and I was disappointed, but when I did go I went to the Dolphins and at the time they weren’t one of the better defenses so I was kind of excited because I felt like I had a chance to make the team. Being a ninth round draft choice I knew I had a better chance of making the team.”
John Offerdahl: “I’ve got a lot of great Draft Day memories. Are you ready? My Draft Day Memory, John Offerdahl, 1986. Sports Illustrated did a front cover article on a who’s who of midwestern college players that could be diamonds in the rough. Jill Leiber was with me through the draft at my house and the moment we were watching ESPN and Bill Walsh called me up and congratulated me on the fact that I was going to be a San Francisco 49er. I was jubilant and I took the phone off the hook and we were watching ESPN and a half an hour to an hour later they finally got caught up to that draft position and they announced that the San Francisco 49ers have now traded down their draft choice. I said, ‘Oh, shoot.’ That’s exactly what I said, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I put the phone back on the hook and literally seconds later (Coach Don) Shula was on the phone and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re now a Miami Dolphin.’ I was like, ‘I’ll take Miami.’ Little did I know that I would have had three more rings if I was a 49er but I was very happy to be a Miami Dolphin. That was almost the most foolish thing any draft choice candidate had ever done and that was me. And it was all recorded by Sports Illustrated so thank you Sports Illustrated for catching that fopa.”
Shawn Wooden: “Just the whole weekend, the anticipation and everybody else, all of your family members and your friends all calling you. You get kind of frustrated when you’re a later round pick. You might have been an earlier round pick but you get pushed to those later rounds and you’ve got friends and family calling you and you tell them, ‘Just leave me alone. Don’t call until after the draft.’ So I remember getting a call from Jimmy (Johnson) and it was like the 20th call that day that I received. I was pretty frustrated and I had just gotten off the other line and he was like, ‘Is this Shawn?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘You know against my better judgment I think I’m going to take a Notre Dame with our next pick.’ So you have kind of mixed emotions because you’re happy that you’re getting picked but at the end of the day I was getting applications because I didn’t think I was going to make the team. I thought I would just be training camp fodder.”
Where were you on Draft Day?
Cross: “I had finals and I was on campus so I just remember I was trying to graduate. I was trying to get out of school and at the University of Missouri, their rule was the minute I got drafted, even though I didn’t have an agent, my scholarship was terminated. So that was it for me. I wasn’t coming back on their dime and finishing.”
Offerdahl: “I was at my house with my family. I played at Western Michigan and grew up in Wisconsin so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to go down to South Florida and play for a team with Shula and Marino. I really thought seriously, ‘Man, I’m in the Super Bowl baby.’ Little did I know I’d never get there. Sorry guys, but it was still a blessed moment. I got to come down with Jill Leiber from Sports Illustrated for my first rookie camp and that whole experience was unbelievable, just the ride of my life.”
Wooden: “I was at my mom’s house. I was upstairs and everybody else was downstairs. I was just lying down and I stopped watching the draft. Like I said I was a sixth-round pick and I wasn’t expecting to go in the first round, but when you start hearing about guys you figured you were rated higher than going in the third or fourth round you start getting kind of anxious.”
How did you celebrate being drafted?
Cross: “I didn’t. I was just focused on showing up and making the team. Being a late round draft choice it’s a much different state if mind I think than being a first, second or third rounder. You’re just worried about making the team and you can’t wait to kind of get out there, put on some pads and start competing. When you’re a first or second rounder you’re already talking about buying houses. When you’re a late round draft choice you just can’t wait for training camp to start so you can start competing.”
Offerdahl: “This is all documented by Sports Illustrated but I had family and friends amounting to probably 40 or 50 people. We stayed up the night before and played cards and all slept on the family room floor. We woke up the next morning, put ESPN on and got to watch the draft together, It was just a group of people that loved each other and I was really pleased to have shared that with all of my friends and in a way get it captured and documented by that Sports Illustrated article. So that was real neat for me.”
Wooden: “I was just relieved and my family was very happy, but Jimmy’s parting words were, ‘Just get ready. Make sure you’re ready when you come down.’ That next week we were down there for the rookie minicamp so it wasn’t like I had much time to party. I knew I had to get ready and I knew Jimmy’s reputation.”
What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position as far as special workouts, etc.?
Cross: “I just got back from the Combine and just continued to work out. I personally don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do once football season is over other than working out and staying in shape.”
Offerdahl: “I worked out on my own. To prepare for the draft we had a big bratwurst fry the night before so I was nice and ready. I had a lot of fat content in my tummy by the time I came down there to Florida. No, we did have the Combine back in Indianapolis and that was to prepare for the draft.”
Wooden: “We worked out at Notre Dame. I did go down to New Orleans for a couple of weeks and I worked with someone down there, but these guys are doing it for months now. It’s kind of interesting. I used to write software because I was a computer science major so I used to write software for several teams. Actually, the Miami Dolphins were one of my teams I had and we used to do game analysis and draft, or pro personnel analysis was what they called it. So I would be able to see what they were writing about guys from years before in order to make sure the software worked. They didn’t let me do it my last year. I guess I would have given myself all good grades.”
Was there something about your interviews with prospective coaches before the draft that stood out?
Cross: “The process is a lot more extensive today than it was back then so there wasn’t a whole lot going on beyond the physical stuff that they were asking you to do. I think most players just felt like they needed to stay in shape and continue doing the drills.”
Offerdahl: “By that time they knew I was one of five kids with four older sisters and had a problem finding my own masculinity, so they knew all of those things. They prodded me plenty. I played the French horn. I had four older sisters. My God don’t recruit that guy. He’s high risk.”
Wooden: “Actually, I was not invited to the Combine because people said I would never play football in the league because I had back surgery when I was sophomore. So that was another thing I had to overcome. I know several teams that I went to go see before the draft wrote letters saying that I would not be able to play football in the National Football League. I lasted nine years so I guess they were wrong. The interviews were pretty straightforward. There was nothing in my background that they were going to bring up. I was a Notre Dame guy so they protect us up there. You don’t hear much about it. I was raised by a single mom so they asked me about my father and did I have any psychological issues or any ill regard to him or any ill regard like if I had a chip on my shoulder. And I told them the only chip I ever have on my shoulder is when somebody tells me I can’t do something. That’s a big enough chip.”
What advice would you give to this year’s class of draft choices?
Cross: “Lower your expectations and be ready to compete because the two games, there are a lot of differences. Your learning is just beginning. I don’t care how good you are, you’re learning is just beginning and the heavy lifting is ahead.”
Offerdahl: “It’s just a special time and one that you should embrace. Too many times I see these people screw up an opportunity of a lifetime when they’re in the crosshairs of greatness and it gets to their head and they blow it. So at the end of the day enjoy that moment but realize it’s just the beginning of another career and one that has high expectations for you to perform. Get ready, get serious and get nervous. As Coach Shula used to say to me, ‘Are you nervous?’ I’d say, ‘Absolutely,’ and he’d say, ‘You better be.’ You better be nervous, man. This is the game.”
Wooden: “Just enjoy it and have fun. This happens once in your life, so have fun and enjoy it. But know that as soon as you’re picked its work. It’s no longer a game. It’s a business and they have to start treating themselves like they are CEOs in the business. Their bodies are a business and they have to make sure that business is a viable business able to keep going. Partying? You work hard so you should party. I’m a true believer that if you work hard you play hard, but remember, you’ve got to work more than you play.”