NEWS- 'Hoo coup: Two Cavs chosen in NFL Draft's first round
Backstage at New York's Radio City Music Hall, with cameras tracking his every facial expression, UVA fourth-year defensive end and St. Anne's-Belfield alum Chris Long anxiously awaited the call that would determine his professional football fate. With the first pick, the Miami Dolphins had already signed Michigan offensive lineman Jake Long (no relation to Chris) days earlier, making their choice a foregone conclusion, so the eyes of football fans everywhere were locked on Chris as the St. Louis Rams' front office deliberated whom to choose with the #2 overall pick.
With five minutes to go before the Rams had to make their choice, a phone rang, and Long's adrenaline began pumping. But it was a friend of mother Diane ringing on her cell phone. Moments later, in the middle of an interview with ESPN and before a national television audience, a jittery Long smiled and gently admonished his mother.
"Good job, Mom," he said. "It's called vibrate."
Almost immediately it was official: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced, "With the second pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select Chris Long."
There was plenty of history packed into that pick. Long is the highest Cavalier ever chosen in the draft in the Super Bowl era, and the highest since running back Bill Dudley went #1 overall in 1942. And as father and Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie hugged his son, Chris became only the fifth son of a Hall of Famer to be drafted into the NFL.
As Long, dapper in a blue pin-stripe suit, strode onstage to shake hands with the commissioner, his teammate, UVA third-year offensive lineman Branden Albert, glued to the TV at home in Edgewood, Maryland, still had to wait.
Some had speculated he might go as the 12th pick to the Denver Broncos, who are in need of an offensive lineman.
"With the 12th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Ryan Clady, tackle, Boise State."
Perhaps Albert would get to keep wearing orange and blue– as a member of the Chicago Bears, who had the 14th pick?
"With the 14th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Chris Williams, offensive tackle, Vanderbilt."
Next on the board were the Detroit Lions. They needed a running back, possibly a linebacker. Not much chance of Albert getting any relief with this selection. But then, as always seems to happen on Draft Day, came an unexpected development.
"The Detroit Lions have traded their choice."
Just then, Albert's home phone rang, as he got the news along with the rest of the football world.
"With the 15th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Branden Albert."
A relieved Albert, a 6' 5" 309-pound lineman, hung up the phone, rubbed his head as if to wake himself from a dream, and as his family applauded, breathed a large sigh of relief.
It's only the second time that two Cavaliers have been chosen in the first round. The last time was 1997– at the zenith of the George Welsh era– when linebacker James Farrior went to the New York Jets as the eighth pick, and defensive end Jon Harris landed with the Philadelphia Eagles as the 25th selection.
The moment was especially poignant for UVA head football coach Al Groh, who recruited both Albert and Long away from more prestigious programs to play at UVA.
"Program-wise, it gives us confirmation and makes us feel good that we've allowed our players to live up to their full potential," Groh told reporters. "They're great success stories."
Both Long and Albert will get the chance to show their worth early in the season. Albert's debut protecting his quarterback for the Chiefs comes on the road against the New England Patriots, who sacked the opposing QB 80 times on the way to winning 18 consecutive games. The following week, Long's Rams face off against the offensive line that beat the Patriots' formidable defense in the Super Bowl, the New York Giants.