"Draft Day" Movie Resonates With Current And Former Dolphins

Posted Apr 3, 2014

Current players, alumni and fans take in a special screening in Aventura.

Five weeks from now the 2014 NFL Draft will take place in earnest, but a fictional account of that player selection process – the movie “Draft Day” – is set to open in theaters across the country on April 11.

Current Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson and cornerback Will Davis joined alumni Nat Moore, A.J. Duhe, Mark Duper, Patrick Surtain, Lousaka Polite and a crowd of Dolphins fans last night at an advance screening of the film starring Kevin Costner at the AMC-24 theaters inside the Aventura Mall. The film left an impression on those in the audience who experienced the draft in person as players.

“I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great movie and I was glad to come and watch it,” said Davis, who was taken in the third round of last year’s draft out of Utah State. “At the same time it’s interesting getting the point of view of the coaches and how it really is behind closed doors. As a player you’re sitting there not knowing what’s really going on and you hear about all of those trades, so to see it play out on the screen was really interesting.”

Costner plays Cleveland Browns General Manager Sonny Weaver, Jr., and the movie chronicles the first day of the NFL Draft from the perspectives of him and other GMs, owners and coaches along with players waiting to be drafted and players currently on the Browns who will be impacted by Weaver’s moves. All of the scenes inside Radio City Music Hall in New York City were filmed during last year’s draft.

Two Dolphins employees – accounting manager Craig Heil and equipment manager Joe Cimino made cameo appearances, with Heil visible in the Radio City Music Hall scenes. Costner has acted in his fair share of sports movies where he was the athlete but this was the first time he played someone in the front office wearing a suit. He didn’t necessarily pattern his character off of a specific GM.

“I talked to a couple of GMs but I didn’t really go into a tremendous amount of research because I’ve been watching football since the 1960s,” Costner said during a conference call earlier this week. “Basically over the last 25 years everyone’s had access into the locker room with ESPN and I’ve heard general managers and coaches talk forever. I’ve watched them argue and I think we’ve had unlimited and unfettered access into how this game works, and so really for me because I had a strong feeling of how it goes down, I just wanted to protect the language that we used to make sure it sounded authentic.”

Of course the production that the NFL Draft has become bares little resemblance to how it was before ESPN and the NFL Network, which is why Moore, Duhe and Duper couldn’t relate as much to the action. They still enjoyed the movie and sharing their own draft memories with the audience.

“When we played football 20 years ago draft day wasn’t anything like that,” said Duper, who was Miami’s second-round pick (52nd overall) in the 1982 NFL Draft. “I didn’t know I was going to get drafted because I only played one year of college football. I was shocked. When I got the phone call I was in my room playing dominos with my fraternity brothers and Charlie Winner called me. He asked me if this is what I wanted to do and I said yes, so he said congratulations, you’ve just been drafted by the Miami Dolphins and I said thank you and I hung up the phone. I hadn’t planned on playing football to make it a career but I’m glad I did with the Miami Dolphins.”

Moore told the story of how in 1974 he was being courted by the new World Football League’s Jacksonville Sharks and how the Dallas Cowboys sent someone to “babysit” him so he wouldn’t sign before the draft. The Cowboys did not draft Moore, as he was picked up by the Dolphins in the third round, and that’s where he spent his entire career.

Duhe was almost drafted by the Buffalo Bills until they found out who his agent was when they asked him on the phone. He told them the notorious Howard Slusher was representing him and the Bills took a pass, opening the door for Miami to draft him in the first round with the 13th overall pick.

One of Costner’s co-stars is Houston Texan running back Arian Foster, who plays top draft prospect Ray Jennings, a running back from Florida State. The role was an interesting one for Foster because when he came out of the University of Tennessee in 2009 he was undrafted.

“It was kind if vindicating,” Foster said. “As a kid you grow up wanting to get drafted and then you go to the Combine with the interviews and the pro days and you expect to get drafted. Then you get the tryout and you always have this chip on your shoulder that you want to prove to them that you’re better than they thought. So to get a chance to be in a movie about the NFL and play someone who gets drafted in the first round, it was a great moment.”

Polite also was undrafted back in 2004 but wound up signing as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys after getting phone calls from both Bill Parcells, the head coach at the time, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Parcells took Polite with him to Miami in 2008 and the played three seasons with the Dolphins, so the fullback can relate to what Foster went through in real life.

Still, overall the consensus was that the movie did a good job presenting a realistic look into life in the NFL.

“I think that it gives fans and people who really enjoy the NFL an understanding that in the entire process there really is no perfect science to it,” said Gibson, who originally was a sixth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 and played for the St. Louis Rams from the middle of the 2009 season through 2012. “It’s a big guess. You never know what you’re really going to get from the number one pick all the way down to the last pick.”

Movie fans around the nation will get to share in that experience one week from Friday.
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