Draft Memories: Larry Little And Tony Nathan

Posted Apr 24, 2012

With the 2011 NFL Draft just days away, there is a lot of anticipation among the crop of college football players hoping to hear their name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s a moment these young men have dreaming about since they were little kids.

Leading up to the Draft, will be reminiscing with some of your favorite former Miami Dolphins about their draft day experience. Today we catch up with Tony Nathan, running back, selected in the third round (61st overall) of the 1979 NFL Draft out of Alabama and Larry Little, guard, undrafted and signed as a free agent by San Diego in 1967 out of Bethune-Cookman.

What stands out to you the most from your Draft Day experience?

Tony Nathan: “The one thing that really stands out is the fact that they told me I was going to get drafted in the first and I ended up going in the third. That’s the one thing that really stood out in my mind.”

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.’”

Where were you on Draft Day?

Nathan: “I was in my apartment down at school in Tuscaloosa (Alabama). The two guys that I used to hang around, Marty Lyons and Barry Krauss, they got drafted in the first round. They left on the first day so they were calling me and messing with me all day long the first day. I ended up going the second day and I was like, ‘You knuckleheads. You dogs.’”

What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position?

Nathan: “Those camps weren’t available when I was coming through so you did what you could as far as just working out on your own and working with the trainers that were there and the strength coaches that were there at the school. That’s basically all we did. We didn’t have any place where you could go and do the camp thing and work with speed coaches and all of that. We just did what he had to do.”

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?

Nathan: “I didn’t go to the Combine because I had a hip pointer at the bowl game. At that time they brought you in and worked you out at their facilities but they don’t do that anymore. I think now you have to do the workouts at your school, so it was a whole different world when I came out. Nothing from the interviews really stood out”

Little: “There was no Combine back then and I never even interviewed with any teams because they didn’t do that back then.”

How did you celebrate being drafted?

Nathan: “I was just happy as could be when they called my name and I saw my name. They called me, Chuck Connor, and said the Miami Dolphins drafted me and I was like, ‘Thank you.’ At least I didn’t have to wait all the way until the last pick. But I didn’t go out because I still didn’t have any money so we just hung out.”

What was it like to know you were going to be coached by Don Shula?

Nathan: “Once I found it was him it was like, ‘This is going to be interesting, going from Coach (Bear) Bryant and then you go to Don Shula.’ Two legends and you knew that they were going to work the hell out of you. I was used to that anyway because when you come form Alabama you work. And you also had to think about how they had an undefeated season and how can you top that? You can’t. We did play in two Super Bowls but we didn’t win. We still went and represented.”

Little: “I was with the Chargers first and I came to Miami the year before Coach Shula. I played for George Wilson my first year in Miami and Shula came the next year in 1970. I knew his reputation at Baltimore and when he came to Miami I went to his press conference. I went and introduced myself to him and told him who I was and he looked at me and the first thing he asked me was how much do I weigh. I told him 285 and he said, ‘You better lose some of that.’ And that was the only thing he said to me until we had a mini-camp and I think he was impressed with what he saw at that time but he had me lose 20 pounds down to 265. I’d be too small to play in the league now.”

What advice would you give to this year’s class of draft choices?

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.”

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