The fun begins the night before the draft
Getting a taste of New York's nightlife is a highlight for NFL rookies
Sam Bradford may be the first player to have his name called by Roger Goodell at the 2010 NFL draft, but he was one of the last guys to arrive to ESPN The Magazine's Pre-Draft party Wednesday night.
Before the first-round draft picks walked across the stage to shake the commissioner's hand before their memorable picture with him at Radio City Music Hall, the future stars of the NFL strutted across the red carpet, posed for photos before a wall of cameras and experienced star treatment at The Magazine's seventh-annual Pre-Draft party.
It's becoming an annual rite for the first-round talent invited to New York for the draft. Before sweating out where they will spend the next few years playing ball, select first-rounders experience their first taste of life as a pro, mingling with actors, actresses, rappers, reality-TV stars (Danielle Staub, one of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" was in the house) and dozens of pro players the night before the draft.
What better way to relax before a nerve-wracking day than to rub elbows with Alyssa Milano and Ice-T while grooving to DJ ?uestlove spinning in the booth?
If you weren't among the lucky few to get a ticket, don't worry, we got you covered as ESPN New York went inside the ropes.For the first time, The Magazine held the Pre-Draft party on a Wednesday night with the draft beginning on Thursday. Held at ESPACE for the second-straight year, ESPN transformed a large room into a hip club for a night. Good thing, because it was packed much earlier than in the past. Once past all the security details and the ropes, the next steps took you into a room with a red carpet along a wall in front of a row of photographers and reporters waiting to interview each athlete and celebrity as they arrive. There was a bar with a couple of couches, strategically placed of course, before the main room. Right after walking through the entrance, ?uestlove was in a big booth to the right. It was one of the most popular spots for players and partygoers to mingle, posing as they watched ?uestlove do his thing. Upon walking in, Jerry Rice immediately jumped up to the DJ booth to hang with ?uestlove as partygoers took pictures. The former "Dancing with the Stars" finalist spent much of the night dancing by the booth with admirers as ?uestlove spun tunes from '70s and '80s to Jay-Z and Lady Gaga.
To keep the crowd pleased, fully stocked bars were placed at each corner of the room, with flat screen televisions on the walls. A photo booth where you could take a picture with your friends and then wait for a projector to flash it onto the wall for everyone in the room to see was another popular spot. It seemed like everywhere you turned, there were football players, like Adrian Peterson, high-profile agents, celebrities and eye candy galore. By 11 p.m. the place was packed. Several actors from "The Hurt Locker" were at the party. By 1 a.m., there were 1,124 people in the place and still more waiting outside. Rapper T.I., recently released from prison, actually stopped by but left after learning all the VIP couches were taken.
Rapper/actor Ice-T sat in one VIP area, or was it actually Revis Island, since the Jets' Darrelle Revis was in the same section? Revis was sporting a nice brown coat and several other Jets, like Drew Coleman and Leon Washington, were nearby. It was so crowded Washington complained about how hot it got in the room. But he told us he is very excited to be a Jet and how he, like his teammates, can hardly wait to be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
On another couch, Milano sat with friends and tweeted about how excited she was when ?uestlove played some '80s music. "@questlove is spinning (all the kids say "spinning") and playing really, really, awesome music," Milano tweeted. "Toto!!!" she later tweeted when the DJ went through an '80s set.
Back in the other room, Florida cornerback Joe Haden arrived, walked across the red carpet and posed for pictures. Just earlier in the day, Haden and several other NFL draft prospects, like Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, attended an NFL Play 60 event. Standing in the party, the cornerback waited patiently to talk to Revis, who was also at the Play 60 event in Central Park earlier in the day.
"I'm waiting to meet him," Haden said. "I'm a fan. He's my favorite player in the NFL."
Ah, the life of a future first-round pick. Haden not only got to meet his favorite player in the morning, but ended up partying with him that night. There were several Giants in the house, too. Chris Canty, Gerris Wilkinson and Ramses Barden hung out with Hakeem Nicks, who was happy to be a year removed from going through the draft process and sweating it out not knowing where he would be land.
"It's a nervous moment until you hear your name called," said Nicks, who was selected in the first round by the Giants last year.
Florida State's Myron Rolle said he was nervous wondering when he will be drafted this weekend.
By the time the party ended at 2 a.m., about 20 athletes and a couple of hundred people remained even though ?uestlove was packing up his equipment. Nobody wanted the party to end.
For some, like Bradford, the party was only beginning to his first steps onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall.
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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