For many rookies, draft weekend is a time of great anticipation and then celebration. For Vikings rookie Drew Radovich, it was one of anticipation but no celebration.
Radovich was an offensive lineman leaving a storied University of Southern California football powerhouse that had numerous weapons ready to make the jump from one of the top programs in college football to the top professional football league in the world.
But before making that jump, Radovich was beaten down some by cruel reality – not every player in the NFL is drafted. He was not among the lucky ones on the weekend of April 26-27, despite many draft analysts putting a mid-round to late-round grade on him.
"That's what people were saying," Radovich said. "I'll be the first to admit it: That was one of the hardest days of my life, along with getting one of the surgeries that I had and then when I hurt my back. Draft day wasn't a good day, but I felt like I learned from that experience. It was just disheartening, I guess. Just to be told you're expected (to be selected) mid to late rounds. And going from the Senior Bowl to the Combine, I felt like I had done everything I could. I had a pretty good Senior Bowl, a few people said, and my Combine was good. It just, it happens."
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound guard and tackle was a four-year letterman and two-year starter at USC, but that didn't automatically earn him easy entrance into the NFL. Instead, he believes that hip problems from his college days made pro scouting departments wary of his durability.
"Teams were afraid of just my medical history, but I know how to battle through pain," said Radovich, who was one of the highest rated players on the team among the 16 free-agent rookies they signed. "I played through pain my whole time. It's nothing new. It comes with the game; it comes with the territory after you take the responsibility that you've got to play hurt."
He may have proved he can play through pain in college, but NFL teams still weren't sure about his health. He needed to spend seven hours in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tube at the NFL Scouting Combine so medical staffs could get a detailed look at both of his hips and his spine, he said.
For a few hours during the second day of the draft, he thought all of the poking, prodding and waiting at the Combine might have paid off. He began receiving calls during the fourth and fifth rounds from NFL teams that told him to keep his phone on. Unfortunately for his state of mind at the time, not all of his calls during that time were of the professional nature.
"My idiot friends would call me. I'm like, ‘What are you guys doing? I told you specifically not to call me on this day.' I didn't talk to them for a couple of days because I was so mad, like what are you calling me for?" Radovich said.
So seven rounds of the draft went by without that phone call telling him he was a member of an NFL team. It was a sour culmination to a stressful two days during which he tried to accomplish the impossible and not think about his future too much.
He sat at his house with his family, girlfriend and new puppies and tried to put his career out of his mind.
"I didn't even watch most of it. I didn't watch the first day. The second day, I woke up early – I couldn't really sleep. Just hung out. We got two new lab puppies that I was playing with. Just anything to take my mind off it, but you can't really take your mind off it. It's always just sitting right here," he said.
Eventually, the Vikings did call and agreed to contract terms with Radovich shortly after the conclusion of the draft. His journey to the NFL started the following weekend with rookie minicamp before progressing to the first organized team activities last week.
So far, his body is holding up to the non-contact practices of the offseason.
"I started two years at SC, so I don't feel like I'm beaten up. I'm just ready to come out and compete and play and just learn from all these vets and just get acquainted with the pro game. My body is good … and the conditioning is pretty fun," he said without trying to hide the sarcasm. "I feel great."
"Draft day was tough, but that's done and over with and I'm here trying to make a team and just so thankful to be here."
Draft Day Wasn't Fun for One Viking
Viking Update Top Stories
Key matchup: Former teammates face offOnly time will tell who got the better of the Sam Bradford trade to the Minnesota Vikings, but he and Carson Wentz will face each other Sunday after the trade that surprised them…
Viking Update7:06 AM
Vikings podcast: Spielman, Bradford and moreThe Minnesota Vikings are showing the fruits of some solid roster building and coaching. Their record, their stats and their depth prove it, as a talk with Rick Spielman showed.
Viking Update6:17 AM
Vikings rush offense needs to improveThe Minnesota Vikings are the lone unbeaten team in the NFL, yet they are failing at one of the typical telltale signs of a winning team - being able to control the clock with a…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 8:23 PM
Vikings turned 2010 postponement into partyThe 2010 Minnesota Vikings suffered through a decade's worth of twists and turns - almost all of them bad. The one exception? A really long weekend in Philadelphia, where it isn't…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 4:55 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer on final preps for EaglesMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer discusses some key players for Philadelphia, his defense and if Jake Long could play.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:02 PM