Today, we catch up with defensive end Jeff Cross, selected in the ninth round (239th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft out of Missouri, and guard Keith Sims, selected in the second round of the 1990 draft out of Iowa State.
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.”
Keith Sims: "The interesting thing was my draft year was the first year that juniors were allowed to enter the draft and that caused so much pandemonium. I remember talking to Junior Seau before the draft and we were in New York and he did not want to go to Tampa Bay and they had the fourth pick in the draft. He had announced that morning on ESPN if they take him he’ll go back to USC and the debate was with Tampa Bay because San Diego was sitting there at No. 5. Coach Shula had called me in the morning and said, ‘You know San Diego needs an offensive tackle so they’re going to take Richmond Webb. So if they take Richmond Webb you’re going to be our pick at No. 9.’ So I’m real excited and then Junior comes out and does that and the dominoes just fell from there because instead of Tampa Bay taking Junior Seau they took Keith McCants and then Junior Seau was sitting there for San Diego, a California boy, and Richmond fell to Miami and the dominoes just fell all the way from there. But it worked out great. At the time I was a little disappointed not being a first round pick but teaming up with Richmond and getting to be a Miami Dolphin was great.”
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.”
Sims: “Draft Day was really interesting. I was actually in New York at the Grand Marquis at the draft, had a suite up there with my family and my agent and I thought I was going to be a first round pick and ended up being a second round pick but it worked out really well."
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.”
Sims: “I had my mom there and my family and we just had a nice dinner. It was such a nice culmination of my football career because I didn’t start playing football until I was a freshman in high school. So it was just eight years and then I got drafted into the NFL. It was an exciting time but not much time because the next morning I had to get on a plane and come down here for minicamp.”
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.”
Sims: “It was a tad bit different 20 years ago. We did have a few workouts. Some teams came to my university but you didn’t have the personalized workouts where you had different schedules. I had a couple offensive line coaches come and work me out but other than that you were just mentally ready.”
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.”
Sims: "You had to be ready for the interviews and I remember I flew out to San Francisco the week before the draft and met with Coach (George) Seifert and visited a couple of teams but it wasn’t what it is today. I remember they lied to me. I sat in front of Coach Seifert and he said to me, ‘There’s no way you’ll be there with our pick.’ I think they had like the second to last pick in the first round and they had me and Dexter Carter and a guy named Frank Cornish out there and one other player. Then I’m sitting there and when Miami didn’t pick me and I was still around I knew I was going to be a San Francisco 49er and they selected Dexter Carter and I remember saying, ‘He lied to me.’”
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.”
Sims: “I’d tell them it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and if I was a college guy I would be there in New York. Take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be there on the stage, be in New York and soak it up because you spent years dreaming about this moment. Enjoy it and then get to work.”