Published April 22, 2010
| Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL rolled out the red carpet at Radio City Music Hall before Thursday night's NFL draft.
In a celebrity walk worthy of Hollywood, NFL Hall of Famers such as Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor and Dan Marino greeted hundreds of cheering fans lined up on both sides of Sixth Avenue.
"Jim Brown! Jim Brown!" the fans chanted as Brown followed soon-to-be-drafted Jahvid Best and Hall of Famer Floyd Little along the red carpet.
Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the stroll.
"This is great for the fans, I'm having a blast," he said before pausing for an interview with Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, working as a reporter for OCNN — Chad Ochocinco's social media operation.
"You look great over on the other side," Goodell kidded Revis.
Among the NFL former and future stars who arrived decked out in stylish suits for the first draft in prime-time were quarterback Sam Bradford, AP Player of the Year Ndamukong Suh, Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and about a dozen other expected first-round picks.
"I'm a little nervous, the butterflies are flyin' around right now," Bradford said.
Among the last to arrive for the walk were Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees and Hall of Famer Joe Montana.
With almost every draft projection showing Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy in the top three spots, a big night is brewing for the Big 12.
And that's even before Oklahoma State's Russell Okung, Texas' Earl Thomas or Oklahoma's Trent Williams are mentioned behind the two Oklahoma teammates and the Nebraska defensive tackle.
At least one authoritative mock draft — by SportingNews.com — has Big 12 players going in the first six spots and seven in the top 10, adding in linebacker Sergio Kindle of Texas.
"It shows you that the Big 12 is legit," McCoy said Wednesday. "The Big 12 always has questions — 'Aw, they not tough enough. They don't play football there.'"
While the Big 12 hasn't exactly taken a beating in public perception, the league still hasn't had a No. 1 pick. Ever.
Since the Big 12 was formed in 1996, the SEC has had five No. 1 picks and the Big Ten has had three. Heck, even the WAC (David Carr, Fresno State) and Mountain West (Alex Smith, Utah) have gotten into the act.
But not the Big 12, despite claiming a couple of national titles and many more appearances in title games.
Until now. Barring a major surprise from the Rams, who hold the first spot, a Big 12 player will finally be No. 1.
It could even be McCoy, though he's on record favoring teammate Bradford.
He's just happy to see his league finally get its due.
"It just shows that we actually can play football in the Big 12," McCoy said.
SOONER 1-2 PUNCH: If quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy go 1-2 in the draft, then Oklahoma would become the fourth school to send a pair of players to the NFL as the No. 1 and No. 2 picks.
The last time it occurred was 2000, when Penn State DE Courtney Brown was No. 1 (Cleveland) and LB teammate LaVarr Arrington was No. 2 (Washington). The other schools packing a 1-2 punch were: Nebraska in 1984 with WR Irving Fryar (No. 1, New England) and T Dean Steinkuhler (No. 2, Houston); and Michigan State in 1967 with DT Bubba Smith (No. 1, Baltimore Colts) and RB Clint Jones (No. 2, Minnesota).
HEISMAN HISTORY: The Heisman Trophy winner has been the No. 1 draft pick eight times, from USC RB O.J. Simpson in 1967 by Buffalo to USC QB Carson Palmer in 2003 by Cincinnati. In between, it's been: Vinny Testaverde (Tampa Bay, 1987); RB Bo Jackson (Tampa Bay, 1986); RB George Rodgers (New Orleans, 1981); RB Billy Sims (Detroit, 1978), RB Earl Campbell (Houston, 1978); and QB Jim Plunkett (New England, 1971).
Twice, a pair of Heisman winners were picked in the same draft: WR Desmond Howard and QB Ty Detmer in 1992; and RB Reggie Bush and QB Matt Leinart in 2006.
Howard was Washington's first-round pick (No. 4 overall) and Detmer was Green Bay's ninth-rounder (230). Bush was New Orleans first-rounder (2) and Leinart was Arizona's first-rounder (10).
OFFENSIVE FRONT: With plenty of quality offensive linemen in this draft, a record for most OL's picked among the first 10 selections could fall. The record is three, first set in 1997 and equaled in 2002 and 2009.
Offensive linemen who might go in the top 10 include tackles Trent Williams (Oklahoma), Russell Okung (Oklahoma State), Bruce Campbell (Maryland) and Bryan Bulaga (Iowa). Guards touted for the first round and maybe the top 10 include Mike Iupati (Idaho) and Jon Asamoah (Illinois).
Last year, Jason Smith (St. Louis) was No. 2, Andre Smith (Cincinnati) was No. 6 and Eugene Monroe (Jacksonville) was No. 8.
The record for most offensive linemen taken in the first round is 10 in 1968.
Q: Which school has the record of six players taken in the first round?
JUNIOR NO. 1s: In the past 20 years, 11 of the No. 1 overall picks have been juniors, from QB Jeff George in 1990 to QB Matthew Stafford in 2009. ... The top colleges with the most first-round picks are USC (63), Miami (56) and Ohio State (53).
AP Sports Writer Rick Freeman contributed to this story.