It's always nice to hear the town you live in get a name-check at the NFL draft.
But on Thursday, northwest Ohio native Jon Gruden, a Super-Bowl-winning-coach-turned analyst whose father graduated from Heidelberg, made special mention of our town when describing Saints running back Chris Ivory.
"He's from Tiffin College," Gruden said. "You know how I know he went to Tiffin College? Because that's where I was born."
This surprised me, since I always thought Gruden was born in Sandusky, while his brother, Jay (now the offensive coordinator for the Bengals) was from Tiffin. Nonetheless, it was exciting to hear the name on ESPN. A cynical observer might note that if Gruden really was from here, he should know it's Tiffin University. Luckily, I am not a cynical observer.
When watching the draft, particularly the later rounds, it's easy to get caught up in the drama of it. There are a number of college players around the country hoping their names will be called. It is, in some respects, the culmination of something they have worked for their whole lives.
But no matter how exciting it is for a 21-year old kid to hear his name announced in New York City, one can't escape this reality:
Sometimes it's better not to get drafted.
Two prime examples of this come from Tiffin University. Wide receiver Nate Washington went undrafted in 2005, only to get offers from a number of teams before settling on the Steelers. Washington went on to make the team, then worked his way from the practice squad to the full roster. He was activated before the AFC championship game that year, and made a key catch. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl that year, and Washington became a more integral part of their offense.
After winning another Super Bowl ring with the Steelers in '08, Washington signed a multi-year deal with the Titans.
It's safe to say going undrafted didn't hurt him.
In Ivory's case, he probably would have been drafted if not for a serious knee injury he suffered while with the Dragons in the 2009 season after transferring from Washington State. Still, after a strong pro day, there was hope that he'd become the first Dragon to be taken in the draft.
While that would have been nice for Ivory and the program, not getting drafted allowed Ivory to pick his situation. He signed with the Saints on last year's draft day, and then-TU coach Dave Walkosky talked about how Ivory should get a good chance with the Saints because of their running back situation.
He was right.
In his rookie season, despite missing four games and the playoffs due to injury, Ivory rushed for 716 yards and five touchdowns, averaging better than 5 yards a rush.
The bottom line is that if you're good enough, not getting drafted allows you to pick the team and not the other way around. A player can look at the team's depth at a position, and judge whether he will get a shot there.
It doesn't always work out, but as Ivory and Washington showed, not getting drafted doesn't end a player's NFL hopes.
In some cases, it enhances them.
Zach Baker is an Associate Sports Editor at The Advertiser-Tribune.
Contact him at: