The NFL draft gets underway this weekend, at long last. It's a day eagerly awaited by ex-Commodore receiver Dan Stricker and a host of other college football stars, who hope to hear their names called as the choice of one of 32 professional teams.
So what will Vanderbilt's all-time leading receiver be doing Sunday, the day the pundits project he'll hear his name called?
"I'm not quite sure. I'll probably just be tossing the football or playing out with the dog in the backyard, or doing something to get my mind off it," said Stricker, with a hearty laugh. "My Mom will be watching it with my Dad, and they'll tell me when the phone rings."
Don't let him kid you-- Stricker and at least three other former Commodores will be sweating bullets Sunday, hoping to get that "You've been chosen," call from their agents. (Typically a player's agent gets the word just moments before an NFL team's draft choice is announced to the world over ESPN.)
Draft day is the culmination of a lifelong dream for Stricker, who readily admits he's gone through excitement, nervousness, anxiety and a host of other emotions in this final week leading up to the draft.
"It's been an enjoyable experience throughout the whole process, though," said Stricker. "I've been listening and getting information from the NFL personnel, but what you hear sometimes is not what you get.
"Moreso than not, I've been hearing from former teammates and friends that were drafted that the team that drafted them was one of the teams that they thought weren't as interested. So I don't really know what to think about the process. I'm just ready to get it over with."
Few things can be more unpredictable than the NFL draft. Two years ago it was a boom year for Vanderbilt alumni, as four ex-Commodores went in the draft (Jamie Winborn to the 49ers, Matt Stewart to the Falcons, John Markham to the Giants and Jimmy Williams to the Bills). But last year at least three Commodores who went into draft day with high hopes-- Antuian Bradford, Nate Morrow and Greg Zolman-- were all passed over in the seven-round draft.
What does Stricker see happening this weekend for himself and for this year's class of ex-Commodores?
"I have no idea," said Stricker. "I wouldn't throw much into the 'draftable' bracket. Sometimes you just don't know. Sometimes you're drafted three rounds higher than you thought you would-- and sometimes it's the flip side of that, you're absolutely astonished that you weren't drafted.
"If everyone goes to the fullest of their capability, I would think..." (Here he pauses, measuring his words.) "I would say that four Commodores could be drafted, that being myself, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Rushen Jones, and possibly Jim May in one of the later rounds.
"But you never know-- it could be zero, or it could be any one of those numbers."
Some players passed over in the draft will have an opportunity to sign free-agent contracts with the team of their choice, as Bradford, Morrow and Zolman all did last year. For those who sign, it's on to rookie camp in May, and the chance to land one of those elusive spots on an NFL roster.
But for right now, the prospect of getting paid for doing what he loves to do is nothing less than a dream come true for Stricker.
"My main priority is still just playing football," he said. "It's what I love to do. It's what I've dreamt about.
"What it comes down to is, I'm a competitor. Every chance I get to compete and play football, I'm going to be extremely happy."
Coming Friday on VandyMania: In an exclusive interview, Dan Stricker discusses his experiences at the NFL combine, mentions the professional teams with which he's had the most contact, and discloses the team from whom he'd most like to get a call.
Commodores in the NFL draft, last 20 years (round, team)
2001 Jamie Winborn (2nd, San Francisco)
2001 Matt Stewart (4th, Atlanta)
2001 John Markham (5th, New York Giants)
2001 Jimmy Williams (6th, Buffalo)
1998 Antony Jordan (5th, Indianapolis)
1996 James Manley (2nd, Minnesota)
1992 Corey Harris (3rd, Houston)
1990 DeMond Winston (4th, New Orleans)
1990 John Gromos (12th, Seattle)
1988 Chris Gaines (5th, Arizona)
1988 Carl Parker (12th, Cincinnati)
1986 Will Wolford (1st, Buffalo)
1986 Steve Wade (12th, Indianapolis)
1985 Rob Monaco (8th, St. Louis)
1985 Ricky Anderson (11th, St. Louis)
1985 Karl Jordan (12th, Dallas)
1985 Chuck Scott (2nd, Los Angeles Rams)
1984 Leonard Coleman (1st, Indianapolis)
1984 Steve Bearden (3rd, New Orleans)
1983 Jim Arnold (5th, Kansas City)