Today, we catch up with running back Tony Nathan, selected in the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft out of Alabama, and cornerback Sam Madison, taken in the second round (44th overall) of the 1997 draft out of Louisville.
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.”
Sam Madison: “Well, what stands out the most is you never know what can happen on Draft Day. Throughout the whole entire week-and-a-half leading up to it I talked to two teams. I talked to Pittsburgh very heavily and the Philadelphia Eagles. I didn’t talk not one time to the Miami Dolphins and then eventually Jimmy Johnson’s on the phone and I become a Miami Dolphin.”
What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position as far as special workouts, etc.?
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.”
Madison: “Coming out of Louisville you didn’t have many big name guys in the football program really go ahead of you. A couple of years before you had Ray Buchanan, so I just really focused on the 40 and worked on my bench press and things like that. I knew I could do the shuttle and all of those things, I was quick and everything but the 40 was one of my main things that I really wanted to focus on. I went out and I did pretty well at the Combine, but I did even better once I made it to my Pro Day.”
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.”
Madison: “One of the things during my senior year, Ron Cooper, he was a defensive minded guy but we didn’t have many wide receivers, so throughout that whole entire season I was one of the versatile players being able to play offense and defense and being able to catch balls on the offensive side of the field. So a lot of scouts and coaches were asking me, ‘Would you be willing to play wide receiver?” I was like, ‘No. I’m not going to go on the offensive side. Just leave me at defensive back.’ So that was really one of those questions that I got regularly from the scouts and the coaches, but I knew I was a defensive back. O.J. (McDuffie) always said it, they move defensive backs to the defensive side of the ball because you can’t catch.”
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.’”
Madison: “I was in Atlanta at my brother’s house. I had a lot of my family and friends up because it was my birthday weekend, so it was a very good birthday gift in 1997.”
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.”
Madison: “Really, I was just hanging with my boys. Knowing Jimmy Johnson, I was coming to Miami to play for him so I didn’t really want to go too wild and crazy and do something to hurt my situation that I was in. So I was just soaking it all in, wanted to get back to Louisville and see the coaches and the team before I headed out. It’s totally different now because the next week after you get drafted you’re at minicamps so you have to get yourself ready to go.”
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.”
What advice would you give to this year’s class of draft choices?
Madison: “A lot of guys think as soon as you get drafted you’ve made it. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, so you’ve done a lot of the things to get you here so far, now you need to learn and build on the small things and understand that it is a game, but now it’s your job. I’m not going to practice anymore, I’m going to work because there are a lot of guys that depend on you. When you get into that locker room you’re going to be dealing with 38-year-old guys, you’re going to be dealing with 21-year-old guys and you’re going to be dealing with guys with families. So there’s going to be a lot of mood swings. You just have to be able to deal with those, try to find your lane and the sky’s the limit because even though I went in the second round, a couple of years before Jimmy cut a guy that went in the second round. So I just wanted to stay focused and come into a football team that was very veteran heavy, learn what I was supposed to do and hopefully I could contribute in some kind of way, which I was able to do my rookie year through special teams”