A look at Saints season ticket holder Jason Fisher's trip to the 2017 NFL Draft.
Saints season ticket holder Jason Fisher was selected to be the team representative for the 2017 NFL Draft. Read along as he recounts the trip to Philadelphia, greeting our first round draft pick and his overall experience.*
Upon our arrival in Philadelphia, season ticket representatives from each team gathered for a quick rundown of our activities the next day. Former Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, led the group in a game called "You Make the Call". This consisted of him having team representatives up to review plays that had been reviewed during the past season as if they were the referee in the game. He would show the different replay angles and representatives would then have to determine the call, where to place the ball, if the clock needs to be changed, etc. He would then explain the ruling and why it was made. This included several obscure rules that most of us had never heard of. It was very enlightening including the fact that the NFL is progressing towards full time refs. He also took a shot at the Falcons we definitely enjoyed that.
Draft Day was here! At breakfast, we were joined by Ron Jaworski, Thomas Davis, and Roger Goodell who answered questions and talked about their Draft Day memories. When we were called up for our photos, I asked how they expected a Saints fan to take a picture with a Panther. Jaws and Davis cracked up and told me that it would be ok. We were able to regroup for the official picture.
After breakfast, we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the NFL Draft was being held. The main stage was erected over the bottom part of the Rocky steps. It was truly massive!
We toured backstage, including Nike's special area where each jersey would be made for the first round picks. They had several blank jerseys for each team as well as pre-made nameplates in each team's font of the top 300 players who could be drafted.
A look at the process - after a team turns in their pick, the name of the player is called over the radio to two NFL employees. One fills out the official draft card and the other is in the Nike jersey room. He tells the Nike employees, and the team season ticket holder, who the pick is about 5-10 minutes before the pick is announced by the Commissioner. Obviously, cell phones are strictly prohibited by anyone but NFL employees who have signed agreements that prohibit them from leaking any information. Once the pick is known, Nike makes two identical jerseys on the heat press which Nike staff members call "The Dream Maker". One is given to the Season Ticket Holder to present to the commissioner (and player) on stage while the other one is bagged up and sent to Topps to be cut up and placed into football cards.
Before the Draft started, we were served dinner in the Philadelphia Museum of Art where we also viewed the Arched Entrance from the Chapter House of the Carmelite Convent Les Grands Carmes des Arènes, the Portal from the Abbey Church of Saint-Laurent and Cloister with Elements from the Abbey of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines. It was somewhat out of place to see a bunch of people in team jerseys walking around in this place. Our photos didn't do the place justice.
After dinner, we walked the official draft cap that was presented to our picks down the red carpet. We patiently waited in the Nike room for the Saints 11th overall selection. I witnessed Marshon Lattimore's jersey being made about five minutes before the pick was announced by the Commissioner.
Down to the stage I went! After the pick was called out, I walked the jersey out to the Commissioner Goodell. He did seem very knowledgeable about the specifics of each team because during my short time on stage, we discussed Marshon Lattimore and how he fits with our team.
After he received his jersey and did his interviews, I had a chance to welcome Lattimore to the Who Dat Nation! He gave me a big handshake and hug and yelled "you better believe it". He was obviously and understandably excited and seemed genuinely happy to be a part of the organization.
On Friday, we were able to check out the NFL Draft Experience that was set up on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This area was massive. In one area, they had Combine Corner where you could run a 40 yard dash, check your vertical jump, kick a field goal, and try to throw a perfect Hail Mary. There was also a section with NFL Hall of Fame memorabilia from the NFL Hall of Fame, including Drew Brees' jersey from when he broke the consecutive touchdown record previously held by Johnny Unitas.
In additions, there was a selection of Hall of Fame busts, including Louisiana native Terry Bradshaw plus another Hall of Fame exhibit with a gold jacket and several rings. Before this, I was not even aware that there was a ring involved with getting elected to the Hall of Fame. They seem bigger than many of the Super Bowl rings!
The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program also had 16 artists who were painting portraits of the 32 first round picks. Priscilla Anacakuyani Bell painted our #32 pick, Ryan Ramczyk and an artist named Distort painted our #11 pick of Marshon Lattimore.
All in all, Vanessa and I had a fantastic time. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that was made even better by the Saints organization and the NFL. I cannot say enough about how great all the NFL staff members were and the fantastic program they set up.