Inside The Dolphins Draft Room
Today we catch up with running back Keith Byars, selected in the first round (10th overall) of the 1986 NFL Draft out of Ohio State by the Philadelphia Eagles, tight end Troy Drayton, selected in the second round (39th overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft out of Penn State by the Los Angeles Rams and safety Louis Oliver, selected in the first round (25th overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft out of Florida by the Miami Dolphins .
What stands out to you the most from your Draft Day experience?
Keith Byars: “It was a very hairy situation being injured going into the draft. I had visited 21 of the 28 teams at that time about 10 days prior to the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles weren’t one of the 21 teams that I visited. They wanted me all along. I got drafted on a Wednesday at that time. On Monday night Buddy Ryan, who was the head coach of the Eagles at the time, went on a radio show and said, ‘Keith Byars is a medical reject. We’d never draft him.’ Everybody had me projected to go to Pittsburgh at No. 9 at the latest if not before and the Eagles picked me at No. 10. I was happy to be the 10th player picked in the draft that year and I was very excited to see my dreams come true as a little child.”
Troy Drayton: “I was actually asleep when I got drafted. It was just the wait and the monotony of just being chosen and the excitement about when you’re going to be chosen. My mother woke me up with her screaming. I was like, ‘Okay, what team am I going to?’ But I think that kind of stands out in my mind. More than anything it was just all the hard work I put in to get to that point. The excitement of my family and friends and my community made me proud to get drafted because of how far I had come, especially being a walk-on at Penn State.”
Louis Oliver: “Picking up the phone with Coach Shula calling me at my agent’s house in Chicago and saying, ‘Hey, we’re getting ready to pick you. Would you like to play for the Miami Dolphins?’ And I said, ‘Hell yeah.’”
Where were you on Draft Day?
Byars: “I was at home in the family basement with all of the family and friends around. We were excited. I got on a plane shortly after that and went to Philadelphia for the press conference. Nobody went to New York for the Draft in those days.”
Drayton: “I was surrounded by family and friends. I was in my hotel room and after the first round. Everybody was on my bed and I had my head on the desk. I was knocked out. I heard my mom yelling and screaming. I was like, ‘Okay, where am I going?’ And she was like, ‘The L.A. Rams.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ It was a great day for me and my family. I remember all of my friends going out that day and buying Rams gear. I remember talking to the Rams and them asking me what number what I wanted and different things like that. That was a special day. Chuck Knox was the head coach and Ernie Zampese was our offensive coordinator.”
Oliver: “I was at my agent’s house with Deion Sanders, as we had the same agent, and my mother, father and sisters were also there with me.”
How did you celebrate being drafted?
Byars: “It was a quick hug and ‘Woot, woot.’ I had a flight leaving out of Dayton, Ohio at a specific time. The draft started at 7 in the mornin, I was drafted at noon and I was in Philadelphia before 6 p.m. I packed my bags and went. The next thing I knew I was in rehab in Philadelphia within a week because you didn’t have to wait until after graduation. So I was in Philadelphia pretty quick.”
Drayton: “My dad had a barbecue at the house. I didn’t want it to be anything over the top. I just wanted it to be a family atmosphere. That’s what we normally did during big celebrations so I didn’t want to make it any different. Plus, I didn’t want my parents spending a whole bunch of money on it.”
Oliver: “We actually had dinner the night before at a restaurant in Chicago. My agent invited Michael Jordan to come and say a few words to us. He came by the restaurant, signed some autographs, shook our hands and took some pictures . That was pretty much it.”
What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position as far as special workouts, etc.?
Byars: “I had bone graft surgery in January, so I had just got out of the cast two weeks prior to the draft. They wanted me to come to New Orleans for the Combine and I said, ‘Nope. I’m not going to hop around the French Quarter on crutches. I don’t think so.’ So I passed on the Combine. I didn’t even run until that August, but I had a good body of work built up from college and the film didn’t lie.”
Drayton: “I pretty much worked out on my own. My agent sent me a videotape of guys and their times. I was looking at the top tight ends and I was competing against them. So looking at their times I just went out and performed. The big thing about the Combine is you’re out in an adverse situation. You’re not familiar with the territory. You’re seeing doctors and you’ve got interviews and there was a whole lot of things going on at the time. You’ve just got to go out and run your 40 and jump your vertical and run your shuttles and interview well and that’s pretty much it. You just try to be as honest as you can and that really comes across well if you’re honest.”
Oliver: “Things have gotten so much more advanced and technical now from when I played. I just went to the Combine and then we had a team workout at the University of Florida. A lot of these guys have private workouts. We didn’t have that type of thing. Everybody went to the Combine and tested and did all the drills and then we had a team workout at the University of Florida. I did that and that was about it.”
Was there something about your interviews with prospective coaches before the draft that stood out?
Byars: “They asked me the same old questions about my family background, what kind of person I am, how much I love the game. I did well there to still be drafted that high while being injured. The teams saw my love of the game. I was a football junkie and still am. I always will be and that’s what stood out and got a lot of clubs’ attention. The ones that passed on me, if they had to do it all again they would have drafted me. Part of me wanted to play for the Miami Dolphins out of college but they chose late that year. I was like, ‘I love you and all but I don’t want to still be on the board at that time unless you move up.’”
Drayton: “A lot of coaches asked me did I like to block because I was switching from wide receiver to tight end. And I said, ‘Listen, I’m still learning. You guys forget that I’ve been a tight end a year-and-a-half and I haven’t mastered all the nuances of it. I’ll stick my nose in there. Yes, I love to run routes because that’s what I did pretty much my whole high school career and up until the middle of my junior year.’ So I said, ‘Once I learn how to block and learn the techniques that you want me to learn, there’ll never be a problem.’”
Oliver: “I didn’t even get interviewed by the Dolphins. We pretty much went through all the teams. I remember being interviewed by the Broncos, but they didn’t ask me anything crazy. I’d always been a pretty clean person so I never had off-the-field problems or school issues. They knew I could do the school work and they knew I could handle the position and the plays and the coverages. They wanted to make sure I was healthy and that I could play in the system.”
What advice would you give to this year’s class of draft choices?
Byars: “Just be patient and control the things you can control. They can’t control what’s being said about them. The only thing you can control is yourself. Just watch your own actions and just continue to be loyal to the team that you’ve been drafted to and don’t forget why you play the game. You play for the love. The money and all that stuff is great, but don’t get away from the love of the game.”
Drayton: “I think the one thing you have to do is you have to enjoy the day. One thing about the draft is they’re going to build you up to tear you down. A lot of times they want to see how you’re going to react during that process. Guys just have to kind of keep cool because you’re definitely under a microscope and people are definitely watching you. But when that day comes you’ve got to really enjoy yourself. You’ve got to enjoy the moment because you only get drafted one time and it’s a special thing. It’s not only special for guys’ families but it’s special to the guys’ colleges and it’s special to them personally. So my advice is to enjoy it while it lasts because it’s been known that guys get injured and don’t last very long in the league, so when that day’s your day enjoy it. I always told my friends, whether I was the first pick or the last pick or somebody picked me up in free agency, to me it would have been a tremendous honor, especially coming from walking on at Penn State. So it didn’t matter, as long as I signed a contract and you gave me an opportunity to prove myself.”
Oliver: “It’s going to come quick and be over before you know it so enjoy it. No matter where you get drafted just enjoy it because you’ve got guys that aren’t drafted and they turn out to be great players. So the draft is just a formality of getting guys onto certain teams, but it’s what you do when you get to the team that matters most.”