CHICAGO (AP) – The NFL draft is all about the future. Except when legends of the game steal the show, as Jim Kelly, Dick Butkus, Ickey Woods and Rick Upchurch did in the second round.
The 32 teams were eager to get going Friday night with lots of talent remaining – no one itching more than Giants general manager Jerry Reese. He did something rare for the franchise, trading up seven spots with Tennessee for the first pick and taking Alabama All-America safety Landon Collins.
Then, it was about the old guys.
Kelly, recovering from two separate bouts of cancer, drew the loudest, longest and most emotional reception. Upon approaching the draft podium, the Hall of Fame quarterback was greeted by cheers and chants of “Kelly, Kelly.”
“I want to thank everyone all over the world, especially my NFL family, for all of your prayers,” Kelly said before announcing Buffalo’s first pick in this draft, Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby at No. 50 overall. “Last year I was in the hospital not knowing if I would be here this year.
“I feel awesome, I was just was cleared after an MRI two weeks ago. I am cancer free. I am having a great time.”
Chicagoans always seem to have a great time with Butkus in their midst.
Arguably the most beloved football player in this Bears-crazy town, 50 years after he played, his star still shines as brightly as those of Michael Jordan, Ernie Banks and Bobby Hull – his counterparts in basketball, baseball and hockey.
Butkus presented Da Bears’ choice – he even paused for emphasis, saying “I like this,” – then announced nose tackle Eddie Goldman of Florida State.
Three picks after Kelly’s emotional appearance, former Bengals running back Ickey Woods had the fans howling as he performed his Ickey Shuffle, explaining how his mother didn’t want him to do the dance after a touchdown. He then told the hysterical audience that the Bengals took Oregon tackle Jake Fisher.
Former Broncos receiver Rick Upchurch, who is fighting leukemia, thanked “my Denver family … for being in my corner” before announcing Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo at No. 59.
Other notables about the second and third rounds and what’s ahead in the final four rounds:
QUARTERBACKS: Remember how Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went 1-2 on Thursday night? Well, there were no more Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in this crop, and it took until Garrett Grayson of Colorado State was taken 75th overall. Is he Drew Brees’ heir?
“I have no problem sitting behind a Hall of Famer like Drew Brees, just like Aaron (Rodgers) did with Brett Favre,” Grayson said. “This really is – and I’m not just saying this – it really is a dream come true for me.”
Also selected was Oregon State QB Sean Mannion (89th to St. Louis)
That leaves such productive college quarterbacks as Baylor’s Bryce Petty and UCLA’s Brett Hundley still on the board.
PLAYER CONDUCT: Day 2 saw five players with checkered resumes picked: wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham by Kansas City; cornerbacks Jalen Collins (Atlanta) and P.J. Williams (New Orleans), linebacker Randy Gregory (Dallas) and defensive end Frank Clark (Seattle).
Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri’s team after several run-ins with the law. Collins was suspended for two games at LSU and confirmed he failed three drug tests. Williams had a DUI charge in Florida dropped recently and also was a suspect in a hit-and-run accident last year. Clark was expelled from the Michigan team after he pleaded not guilty to assault and domestic violence charges last November.
Gregory, generally considered a surefire first-rounder when the season ended, tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in March. He slipped to No. 60, and recognized how much the drug test affected his status.
“Obviously a lot,” Gregory noted. “Like I said, it is in the past. Me and the Cowboys, we are going to take over this league.”
Still unclaimed: LSU tackle La’el Collins, a potential first-rounder. Though he is not a suspect, police want to speak to him in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about the killing of a female acquaintance some have identified as an ex-girlfriend.
EARLY ENTRANTS: Of 77 players who had not graduated college and had eligibility remaining but declared for the draft, 44 have been chosen. That leaves a lot of underclassmen wondering if they made a mistake and certainly not headed for big money if they get drafted Saturday.
Among those on the list are cornerback Jacoby Glenn of UCF, a second-team All-American, and safety Gerod Holliman, who led the nation in interceptions with 14 for Louisville.
HEAD SPINNING SPORTS DAY: It’s difficult to keep track of sporting events on many Saturdays. This one is a head-spinner. The highlights? The final four rounds of the draft; NHL and NBA playoffs; baseball; golf; NASCAR; the Kentucky Derby; and quite the capper with Floyd Mayweather’s bout against Manny Pacquiao.
One draftnik thinks he’s found the solution.
“The NFL Draft is one of my favorite events of the year, but with so many sporting events on Saturday it is going to be hard for me to focus on the draft as much as I would like,” Russell Dubin said, eager to dive into as much as he can fit into the day. “I’m pretty excited to use the NFL draft app on my Xbox One, because that will allow me to multi-task and keep track of everything going on in the draft while watching the other games.”
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