Today, we catch up with defensive end Marco Coleman, selected in the first round (12th overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech, and tackle Mark Dennis, taken in the eighth round (212th overall) of the 1987 draft out of Illinois.
What stands out to you the most from your Draft Day experience?
Marco Coleman: “Really just the experience itself, the anticipation and hearing my name called with my family and friends all around and being really excited for me. It was a really exciting thing and I was fortunate to have it be in a sports bar, Frankie’s Sports Bar in Atlanta, Georgia, and ESPN was actually there, so they got a shot of me and my agent when I got announced. So it was fun, especially coming out of college, the whole experience, it’s really hard to put a finger on exactly one thing. It’s hard to even put into words because it moved so fast and I had just a bunch of emotions.”
Mark Dennis: “I got drafted in the eighth round and back then it was all done on one day, so I remember getting up early to watch the early rounds because I didn’t expect to get drafted real early. But as the day progressed I just figured everybody forgot about me and then finally about 8:30 in the evening I got a call and spoke briefly to Coach Shula. It was almost like after the fact and he said something like, ‘Hey, we just picked you in the eighth round so we hope you’re excited to be here,' It was not a lengthy conversation but I think by that time all of the TV cameras were off.”
What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position as far as special workouts, etc.?
Coleman: “I didn’t feel like I did real well at the Combine because I maybe had about three weeks leading up to it. I was never a sprinter or anything and after the Combine we had two more workouts at Georgia Tech and I did some extra training with some trainers to improve on my numbers from the Combine.”
Dennis: “Teams did not come out and work me out on campus. I was invited to the Combine and I also played in the Senior Bowl and the Blue-Gray Game and I had some casual conversations with teams at those places. As far as preparing for these things, some of the top agents would have some of the higher draft picks work out and then have some of their not so marquee players work out to try to boost their awareness but those were few and far between. So I showed up at the Combine and just ran my 40 and did the bench press and the other drills and then waited for the draft.”
Was there something about your interviews with prospective coaches before the draft that stood out?
Coleman: “Nothing really stood out from the interviews and I didn’t interview with the Dolphins but one thing stood out. I remember very, very vividly walking down a hallway with another one of the guys and I saw Coach (Tom) Olivadotti. He was just standing by himself, leaning against the wall and of the people I saw he stuck out. I just remembered him for some reason. I guess I could tell he was checking me out, we caught a little eye contact and that was that. Then I get drafted and I heard the name because I didn’t know his name when I saw him and when I got to training camp I recognized him and I really enjoyed playing for Coach Olivadotti. I can remember that like it was yesterday.”
Dennis: “The funny thing as at the Combine you go into those medical exams and all of the teams are trying to find an edge so you really felt like a piece of a meet. You had those dental exams and you felt like a horse, so it was very detailed standing up there in a pair of shorts getting measured and weighed with like 40 people in a room. It was kind of strange, like a livestock auction, but nothing really stood out from the interviews.”
What advice would you give to this year’s class of draft choices?
Coleman: “You figure one, enjoy being a rookie and just enjoy the newness because it’s only going to be new once so embrace it and enjoy it. Start now developing and maintain a love of the sport. I think so many guys as they go along with their careers, because of the business aspect of it, everybody wants to be on TV and texting and tweeting so it’s probably more difficult keeping the sport in perspective. So enjoy the newness right now, develop a good work ethic and maintain that boyish feel for the game. Handle your business when the 60 minutes are over but during those 60 minutes it’s got to be about the love of the game.”
Dennis: “It sounds trite and at this point you don’t really have any control of where you get drafted or signed, so once it happens just go and give it everything you have because a lot of times you only get one shot at this. I remember for myself, in the summer before training camp I moved down to Miami and rented an apartment so I could get used to being in the heat. I just put myself as far into it as I could and it’s like any other athletic competition, just leave it all on the field.”