Mattes reflects on his draft day
There will be 254 names announced, everyone from the No. 1 pick to Mr. Irrelevant, the last selection, at the 2011 NFL draft at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Hundreds of other players will sign free agent contracts for the chance to prove themselves at mini-camps, training camps and preseason games, all for one of just a few open roster spots on an NFL team.
The odds have been estimated at somewhere around one out of more than 1,300 high school football players make it in some capacity to the pros.
It's a lifelong dream that only a select few get to realize.
Whether it happens through the draft, or as a free agent, chances are good that Henry Hynoski Jr., will add his name to the list of area players lucky enough to have put on an NFL uniform.
If the University of Pittsburgh, and former Southern Columbia, fullback is drafted, he'll be the first from a local school since North Schuylkill's Ron Mattes was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the seventh round of the 1985 draft.
That's 26 years, and hundreds of players for an area which prides itself on its football tradition.
The NFL draft begins today at 8 p.m. with the first round, continues Friday at 6 p.m. for rounds two and three, and winds up Saturday with the fourth through seventh rounds.
When Mattes was drafted, it was a one-day process with a television coverage ending at 5 p.m., despite the draft continuing well past that.
"Everybody remembers draft day," Mattes, now an offensive line coach at Elon University, said by phone. "It's one of the highlights of your life.
"It was a long day. When the draft went off at 5 p.m., you had no idea until you got the call. The Seahawks called me around 10:30 that night, and told me they'd like to make me an offensive lineman."
In all, 11 players have played in at least one game with an NFL team, including Henry Hynoski Sr., from the immediate area.
Not all had to go through the uncertainty of the draft, but all put in a comparable amount of work, and had to ultimately make the decision of whether deep down they thought they were good enough to play at the next level.
"It takes years, tons of hard work and time," Mattes said. "There comes a point in college when you look at guys you have played with and against and say to yourself, 'I played as good as him, or as good as him. I have a shot to make it.'"
Mattes played in 95 games over seven seasons with the Seahawks, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, starting in 60 of those games before retiring, but he vividly recalls the lead up to the draft and was able to give a glimpse into what every player on a team's draft board, including Hynoski, have been put through in the months since they declared for the draft.
"I'm sure teams have been calling, and if he's on their board, they're doing interviews," Mattes said. "They know more about you than you know about yourself. They test your football knowledge, do psychological tests, call your coaches, your trainers, want to know if you're a tough guy, if you can play through the pain. They leave no stone unturned."
Draft day is only the first step in finding the way to the field for a game, however, and the draft isn't the end-all, be-all for a player chasing his dream. Notable NFL names to catch on as an undrafted free agents include New England's Wes Welker and San Diego's Antonio Gates.
"People fail to realize it is a lot of luck," Mattes said. "Henry is at a niche position, and if he's not drafted he and his agent will have work to do to determine where the best place is for him."
But before any of that plays out, there's the draft, and Mattes knows one thing is for certain, that draft jitters are universal.
"He'll be on pins and needles, sitting by the phone until he gets that call."