McDuffie, Sims And Stephenson Share Their Draft Memories

Posted Apr 11, 2013

Three former Dolphins look back on their draft preparation and memories of the day they officially joined the NFL.

With the 2013 NFL Draft just a few weeks away, will be reminiscing with some of your favorite former Miami Dolphins about their draft day experiences.

Today we catch up with wide receiver O.J. McDuffie, selected in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft out of Penn State, guard Keith Sims, selected in the second round of the 1990 draft out of Iowa State and center Dwight Stephenson, selected in the second round of the 1980 NFL Draft out of Alabama.  

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

O.J. McDuffie: “The number one memory probably is the fact that I spent the night before, Saturday night, at Penn State because we had the Blue and White game. Then we drove to Cleveland the morning after. I was so tired that I fell asleep at the beginning of the draft. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere in the first few hours anyway so I fell asleep and woke up around the 18th or 19th pick. I only got one phone call. That’s the thing that stands out more than anything is I got one phone call and it was from the Dolphins and it was Don Shula and it was probably the best phone call I ever had in my life.”

Keith 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. 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.”

Dwight Stephenson: “Getting drafted was something I never really dreamed about and never thought possible. Did I hope it would happen? Sure. But that day, when I got a call from Coach Don Shula, that was just one of the highlights of my football career. When Coach Shula called me and said they were going to draft me it was a really great feeling. I had to pinch myself. I was a little shocked but at the same time really grateful to be coming down here to play for Coach Shula and the Miami Dolphins. Some people had mentioned first round and some said maybe later. Would I have liked to have gone in the first? Absolutely. But I knew no matter where I was taken or even if I went as a free agent, once you get in camp you kind of start all over again and you have to work hard in order to make the football team.”

How did you celebrate being drafted?

McDuffie: “We kicked it at my mom’s house in Cleveland and then we jumped in my car and we drove to my hometown of Marion, Ohio. When I got there we went to my aunt’s house and it was just a madhouse. It was crazy and it got so bad that the police came and were like, ‘What’s going on?’ So they ended up blocking off the street and then they sent over these live remote trucks from Columbus, Ohio, so it was all good.”

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.”

Stephenson: “I calmly called my mom and acted like it wasn’t a big deal. I heard her and all of my family jumping around and screaming in the background. They didn’t really anticipate where I was going to go but I wanted to share with my family the experience of being drafted and it was a great feeling. When your mother and father work as hard as they did and put me in the position to try to go out and do some things, I wanted to share that with them.”

What did you personally do in preparation for the draft to help your draft position as far as special workouts, etc.?

McDuffie: “It’s a lot different now. I just pretty much worked out with the Penn State team. They had spring ball and a lot of guys that were being drafted were on that workout program. I was at Penn State the whole time just doing what we would have done if we were playing with the team still. I didn’t do anything special. I didn’t go to these little centers that they have now. I didn’t have an agent yet so I just handled getting ready.”

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.”

Stephenson: “I pretty much worked out on campus. I didn’t go to a special camp like some of the guys today are doing, which I think is a good thing. Back then we didn’t have all of the type of things they have now, the different places to workout. I stayed on campus and worked out trying to prepare myself and I was looking forward to hopefully getting drafted.”

Was there something about your interviews with prospective coaches before the draft that stood out?

McDuffie: “It was crazy man. It was just grueling and the best thing about me was there weren’t very many question marks about character and things like that. I wasn’t worried about that. But doing the Wonderlic tests and things like that, I must have interviewed with about 15 teams at the Combine and it was just a long, grueling process but it was good that they got to know me as a person and not just as a player. I didn’t even talk to the Dolphins at the Combine. I thought I was going to San Diego, actually. That’s what everybody told me. From what I understand after the Dolphins took me 25th the Bills were talking about taking me with the next pick. I’m so lucky that I didn’t end up in Buffalo.”

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.’”

Stephenson: “I went to the Combine and they interviewed me and gave me those psychological tests and probably thought, ‘I don’t know if this is the right guy.’ I remember them talking to me and having me look at pictures and try to describe what I saw. I was just trying to be as honest as I could. It’s probably more detailed and more drawn out process now. I remember one abstract thing I looked at I thought I saw a rat trying to crawl through the top of a mountain. So maybe I was trying to relate someone scratching and clawing their way to the top. It wasn’t like different interviews with different teams but one person asking the questions and scouts from each team in there listening.”

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

McDuffie: “It was the best. Going from Joe Paterno to Don Shula I had the best of the best of both worlds, so it was great. Not only that but the respect that Don commands and the success that the program had was awesome. When I got to the Dolphins they were the winningest program in all professional sports, and then also I was going to play with Danny Marino. Are you kidding me? That was great.”

Sims: “I had the mentality that I was going to come down here and get a place on the beach and then I got here and that didn’t happen. But seeing Coach Shula and obviously knowing his credentials coming in and Dan Marino, that was totally awesome. I remember the first minicamp walking into the first huddle and Dan stands up and says, ‘Hey, I’m Dan Marino.’ And I said, ‘I know who you are,’ and he said, ‘Just take care of me,’ and I never forgot that. That was my job.”

Stephenson: “That was an awesome feeling because you watch Coach Shula on the sidelines and then you watch other coaches. They were bigger than life to me and Coach Shula was the ultimate professional and the ultimate coach. And then when he thought I could play in the National Football League that gave me a boost of confidence and I was excited. When I came done here I was a little intimidated by the whole process but I just went out there with the mindset of doing the best that I can do.”

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

McDuffie: “Enjoy it man. Enjoy it. You work so hard to get to that day so enjoy that day for a week and then get ready to go to work. That’s the bottom line because you start working immediately and get ready to treat it like a business because it’s no longer just a game anymore. Get ready for the business part.”

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.”

Stephenson: “I hope they realize that careers are very short and they are very fragile. If you don’t prepare hard and you don’t go for it you can let a great opportunity pass you by. It’s a great, great opportunity, not just financially but to be a part of the National Football League and to go out there and play a team sport is something that they’ll really, really enjoy. I’ve got guys I’ve developed relationships with and it’s a great, great club to be a part of."
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