I remember the draft like it was yesterday. There was a buzz in the air as I gathered with my crew to watch the events unfold, hoping for the remote chance of a late-round pick. It was improbable but not impossible, and my positive outlook and history of good fortune compelled me to wish for an outcome in my favor. As the hours ticked by, my chances faded fast. By the time the draft concluded, I was foolishly drunk.
As luck would have it, three hours after the airing of the NFL draft, a weary, road-worn man showed up on my doorstep in Cedar Falls, Iowa. What team was he representing?
My mind spun through the teams that contacted me to show tepid interest. All I could do was hope that he was from the Cowboys. Cutting to the punch line with no added pizazz, the road warrior introduced himself. “My name is George, and I am here to offer you a chance to sign with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent.”
My eyes dilated as he leaned into me. He must have smelled the booze streaming from my pores along with the bevy of stains on my favorite Hawaiian shirt. Undeterred, he dictated orders to speed things along, “Get a drink of water, freshen up, and get in my car.” He said it with such authority that I obliged. I took a minute to peer in the bathroom mirror and whispered to myself; this is it.
George drove me to his hotel room and pulled out the contract, rattling through the terms. I did my best to appear contemplative. He rubbed his face in his hands, mumbling about his exhaustion and how I was his last signee after three consecutive weeks on the road. As my buzz mellowed and I regained my senses, I gathered the courage to ask for a signing bonus. After another reflexive rub of his temples, George asked how much. I grabbed for a number aimlessly wandering through my head: “$1,500 to help me pack away some groceries.”
“Groceries?” he balked, “$1,500 for groceries, huh?” I shook my head, momentarily out of comebacks. He broke from his weariness and ended the uncomfortable silence with a laugh. “Sure, kid, we can do that.”
New to negotiations of this magnitude, I realized that l could have asked for far more. But it was a flash of regret because I had just signed with the Dallas fricking Cowboys and was on my way to the big time.
More on this story and others in my forthcoming memoir, Aggressively Human, to be released on all platforms in November 2023.