Sunday, April 22, 2001
[ NFL ISLANDERS ]
Raiola goesHE'D TRIED to tell himself to have low expectations. Mid second round. Low second round. Even if he was picked at the beginning of the third round, he would be OK with that.
50th to Lions
The St. Louis School alumnus
hoped to be a 1st-rounder, but he is
happy as the 1st center chosen
By Kalani Simpson
In the NFL draft, you never know what's going to happen, Dominic Raiola tried to tell himself. So he shouldn't get too excited. He should be happy with whatever comes.
Family and friends gathered around the TV set early yesterday morning to celebrate the start of the St. Louis School product's pro football career.
He wanted to remain calm. He wanted to project patience. Whatever happened, this was a big day, he reminded himself. This was only the beginning.
But deep down, he really wanted to be a first-round pick.
As hard as he tried to push it out of his mind, it crept in there, just a little bit. It could happen, couldn't it? Of course it could.
He'd been an All-American at Nebraska, the best center in the country, one of the best the Cornhuskers had ever had. He was smart and quick and had great technique. And on the field he could be half crazy. Football people liked that.
ESPN.com had said he'd be a first round pick, after all.
The party gathered under the tarp at the house in Kaimuki.
What about Pittsburgh? They need a center. Denver? They like smaller linemen who can run.
Baltimore? At the very end of the first round?
Adam Archuleta. Willie Middlebrooks. Ryan Pickett. Todd Heap.
Who are these guys?
At the start of the second round, Kyle Vanden Bosch became the first Nebraska player taken. That was a surprise. Raiola was supposed to have gone first.
He was happy for his teammate. But ... his "but" said it all. "Competitive nature," he explained.
"The position was going fast," he said. "The need for d-ends was so high this year."
And nobody needed a center.
It had been hours since the start of the draft. With each pick friends and family members grew a little more expectant.
Low expectations, Raiola told himself. Low expectations.
But there were so many people around, and they wanted it as much as he did.
"I was getting frustrated already," he said.
He left the party. He watched the draft inside.
Didn't anybody need a center?
The phone rang.
The phone rang!
A Detroit Lions scout. They were thinking of taking him. They needed him to stay on the line.
Stay calm. Low expectations, Raiola told himself.
Matt Millen, the Lion's general manager and a former All-Pro linebacker, came on the line.
With the 19th pick of the second round of the NFL draft, 50th overall, the Detroit Lions select Dominic Raiola.
It was a party again.
He was still being cool about it. But he could breathe now. The weight was gone. He relaxed.
Now he could get to work. Now it was all up to him. He'd wanted to be a first rounder, but he was the first center taken. He'd been right all along. This was a big day after all. A great day.
"That's (going in the first round) something that's good to have," he said, "but I mean, the second round's not bad at all, you know?"
Draft hopefuls Mario Fatafehi of Farrington and Kansas State and Hawaii's Kynan Forney weren't picked. Today, they wait and watch for another day.