The Hard Life of an N.F.L. Long Shot –

Last April 28, a splendid spring Saturday that fairly begged you to be outdoors, I spent all afternoon in front of my living-room TV, anxiously watching the last day of the annual N.F.L. draft, live from Radio City Music Hall. As big a football fan as I am, I had never seen any part of a draft, to say nothing of its final four rounds, which are a roughly seven-hour marathon that lasts until sundown. And yet, on that day, I sat riveted.

I had in front of me what’s known as a Draft Scout Player Profile: a starkly efficient, computerized summation of every draftable player’s past prowess and future prospects. I, however, was interested in only one, my nephew, my younger sister’s son. His specs were, of course, familiar to me. But somehow the officious, bare-bones alignment on my computer screen — in categories befitting a prize steer at auction — rendered him a complete stranger. And a rather impressive one at that.

Name: Pat Schiller. Number: 53. Position: Outside linebacker. Height: 6-foot-1. Weight: 234. College: Northern Illinois. Under “Pro Day Results” — his audition, essentially, before several N.F.L. scouts at the DeKalb campus of Northern Illinois University earlier in March — were 22 bench presses of 225 pounds, a 35-inch vertical leap and, for a linebacker, a head-turning 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash.


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