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, and guard Larry Little, undrafted out of Bethune-Cookman.
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.”
Larry Little: “I remember being in the dormitory at Bethune-Cookman when I was in college I wouldn’t let anybody near the phone in the hallway because I was waiting on that phone call that never came. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep and then I remember the guy from the Baltimore Colts contacted me to see if I would like to sign with the Baltimore Colts as a free agent. And I asked him what kind of bonus was I getting and he said, ‘Well, we don’t give bonuses to free agents.’ Then the San Diego Chargers called me and they wanted to give me a $750 bonus so I jumped at that $750 bonus. So I had a lot of anxiety beforehand hoping I’d get drafted but I wasn’t. The Rams said I would go in the first 10 rounds and Houston called me and said I’d go in round 10 or 11 but they never called. I’ll never forget that scout from the Rams who called me. I saw him a number of years later and thought to myself, ‘Boy, did he blow that one.’
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.”
Little: “We didn’t even have a weight room at Bethune-Cookman so I didn’t even lift weights at the time. I just worked out on my own.”
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.”
Little: “There was no Combine back then and I never even interviewed with any teams because they didn’t do that back then.”
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.”
Little: “There are a lot of guys that make teams as free agents so if you’re not drafted there’s still hope out there for you and just keep working hard and believe that you can play this game. That’s what I did. When I went to San Diego I took everything I owned because I didn’t plan to come back to home. I felt that I was good enough to make the football team if I got the opportunity. If you get that opportunity make the best of it.”