NFL pro bowl practice 2020

Fans gather with their memorabilia at Earhart Field to watch the National Football League's all-stars practice for the annual Pro Bowl Jan. 26. Opinion columnist Elijah Southwick describes how the 2020 NFL Draft revealed to him the strength of the human spirit.

Opinion

From football to family, moments from heartfelt to memeable, the 2020 NFL Draft was both a lesson in perseverance and a distraction that was needed — and deserved.

I’ve always been a football fan and fantasy football junkie. Leading up to the draft, as the days and weeks ticked by under the current stay-at-home order, I found my escape in NFL Draft coverage. 

I know that nothing sucks the air out of a conversation like unwanted sports talk. I’m constantly resisting the urge to to express my excitement over third round draft picks or backup quarterbacks to all sorts of people, whether it’s with my coworkers, classmates, people at bars, or even dating partners. It’s a bit of a dry subject to the uninformed.

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As much as I love to analyze the football side of things, the 2020 NFL Draft represented so much more than that to me. The event was originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas with an insanely high production value. Drafted players were going to be escorted onto the stage by boat. Like, on actual water.

But due to the coronavirus, like the rest of the sports world, the live event was cancelled. Yet, much like the rest of the actual world, the NFL adapted, planning an unprecedented virtual draft in the realm of Zoom calls and Google Docs.

Many of the young players who would have been gloriously boated across Vegas waters changed their plans as well, hosting more intimate draft parties and broadcasting live at their homes with their friends, families and very supportive significant others. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the picks from his basement while wearing a pull-over sweater.

And it all played out on live television.

Although many were speculating there could be serious technical difficulties, the draft went off without a hitch. Although the modern sports world has never faced a more bleak reality, the draft was a wholesome and hopeful three day experience of watching young men realize their dreams.

Whether it was former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire breaking down in tears after being drafted by Kansas City at the end of the first round, or collegiate journeyman and Heisman trophy runner-up Jalen Hurts proving his doubters wrong in the second round, hope sprung eternally. 

The Kansas Jayhawks’ own Hakeem Adeniji heard his name called with the first pick of the sixth round after a decorated college career; a nice win for the football program, despite our now-closed campus facing an uncertain future.

Although it’s hard to imagine now, the world will eventually return to some version of normality. To me, the draft served as a reminder of that, as well as of the human spirit. Endurance and perseverance are pillars of the sports world, tenets that it now shares with the rest of the global community as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Elijah Southwick is a senior from Overland Park studying English and journalism.