The NFL Draft is an annual event that covers all points along the emotional spectrum. Fans yearn for a player to help their team, analyzing and debating each pick. On the other side, the process wreaks havoc on the potential draftees as they wait anxiously to learn of their next destination.
The agony started for Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Clint Ingram a couple of weeks prior to the 2006 draft when he decided to go into hiding on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Individual workouts were complete and he had shown his talent to all 32 teams. It was time to wait for decision day. Ingram dodged phone calls leading up to the draft, trying helplessly to avoid people asking him the same question over and over.
"I was lying low," Ingram said. "Nobody really knew where I was. I stayed away from people asking me where I thought I was going to go."
Ingram's family planned a draft party for family and friends in his hometown of Longview, Texas. The only problem was the star of the party decided to make a late arrival. Ingram was still five hours away on campus when the draft was set to begin.
"When the first round of the draft came on I jumped in my car," Ingram said. "It was about a four-and-a-half hour drive, so I didn't have to watch the first round and most of the second round. I told my family I would be home later. I didn't want to watch it. I was just hoping I would go on the first day."
Ingram received his wish when he was selected by the Jaguars in the third round with the 80th overall pick as part of a trade with Dallas. Ingram, the fourth-highest linebacker ever selected by the Jaguars, was the first Oklahoma player drafted by the team.
As a rookie, Ingram went through the normal transition in training camp, trying to learn the complex defensive schemes and also pick up on the speed of the game. He made his mark on special teams and began the season as a backup at linebacker.
A season-ending injury to starting linebacker Mike Peterson in week five pressed Ingram into duty earlier than anyone expected, and he responded to the call. Ingram finished second on the club with 117 tackles, the fourth-most among NFL rookies. He led the team in tackles in four games and recorded double-digit tackles in four of the last seven games. He is expected to start alongside Peterson and Daryl Smith in 2007.
"Everything is a blessing and I don't take anything for granted," Ingram said. "Being in the league for a year I have more confidence now knowing I can play on this level compared to being in college and looking and saying I think I can."
While he is happy to be in Jacksonville, Ingram would change one thing about the draft experience.
"I would have done everything the same except I would have been a little bit calmer knowing that I have no control over where I'm going," Ingram said. "I was a little bit anxious. My advice would be to be patient."