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Some autograph seekers ruin it for others

4/8/2004

Editor's note: Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery, last year's Outland Trophy winner and projected high first-round pick in April's NFL draft, will chronicle his pre-draft experiences for ESPN.com.

I know you have been wracking your brain for the past week trying to figure out what those two words meant at the end of the last edition. But never fear, I'm back to stop your worrying.

I left off with the words, autographs and eBay. Before I start, let me say that eBay is a great service that I have used myself. Also, my problem is not really with eBay so much as it is with some of the people who use it.

Over the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of new people. Fans throughout Iowa have shown me more support than I could have ever imagined. Whether it is at the gas station, the grocery store, the mall, or a formal event, most have been more than generous in their praises, and I have enjoyed talking with them as well as giving autographs when asked. But, then there are the few out there who like to ruin it for everyone else. The ones who are looking to make a buck off of someone else's name, and in this case, mine. It's the guys who send their little kids up to me, knowing I will not turn them down, to get an autograph. The guys who tell their young ones that they will take them to the toy store and get them a $9.99 toy in exchange for my autograph. Meanwhile, they go and sell the autograph for hundreds of dollars on eBay, and lil' Johnny is scammed once again.

I did not get hip to this until a friend of mine called me one day to tell me that I had a signed football on there that had just sold for $310. My first thought was, "who in the world would buy my autograph for that much money?" Then it made me think about all of the autographs I have signed and how much extra money I could have made in college if I would have signed a few things around the apartment. Of course I am only kidding, but technically that is what people are doing with my autograph.

Now, it has almost become a game. I try to spot items that will end up on the internet as they are handed to me. Then I try to sign differently to distinguish them in order to see if I recognize them on eBay days later. I also started to personalize items. I would put, "to so and so," instead of just having my name and number on it. If it is a real fan who wants my autograph, that person will enjoy that way more anyway. I thought this would stop the memorabilia from being sold for personnel profit. I didn't really think that someone named Mac would want a ball that said "To Brad." But of course I was wrong. Believe it or not, I have seen items for sale, where the seller has somehow nearly or completely erased all of the personalized parts.

It is actually really funny to me because some of these guys seem to be making their living off of eBay. Some of the ones who wait around with a stack of things for me to sign are obvious and I know where those will end up. Others like to lie and say they are for their collection or for their kids, then I see the items two days later with one day left in the bidding. It would be better if they just said they were going to sell it on eBay, at least they would be honest. Anyhow, just needed to get that off my chest. (Don't think I am giving any of you any ideas either. I'm on the lookout now.)

So, back to football. Time is quickly passing. The draft is almost two weeks away, and my emotions are running high. I am filled with anxiety, nervousness, excitement, and impatience all at once. Each day brings dozens of new rumors. It seems that everyone knows where I will end up, who is interested in me, and what teams are trading up or down to get me. This whole experience has taught me one big thing: Rumors are nothing more than that and very few have any validity to them.

Even when I think I know my future home, I get calls from new teams that are interested. I actually just got back from a visit with a team I did not think was even in the mix. The meeting went very well. I met with the coaching staff and some of the front office personnel. It is definitely a team I know I would fit well with. I actually do not have a preference of where I end up. At this point, I just want to know where it is, and want it to be in the first couple of picks, ideally No. 1 of course.

In order to keep from worrying about the draft, I will keep myself busy over the next couple of weeks. Next weekend (April 17), I'll be at Iowa's spring game which will be an odd experience. This will be the first time I watch my teammates take the field without me. I will be a fan on the sideline rather than a player on the field. I don't know how I am going to react at first. I'm sure there will be a strong urge to put the pads on and get out there with them.

After that, I am off to Los Angeles to appear on a Fox Sports program the week leading up to the draft. It has been a dream of mine to be on the show. I absolutely love it and I can't wait to hang out with Tom Arnold, who is never shy to show his love for the University of Iowa. So make sure you tune in that week to catch me. Of course, make sure you get your nightly dose of SportsCenter first.

From Los Angeles, I'll head back to Iowa to meet up with my family before we make our journey from the farm to the Big Apple. We have plans to spend some quality time together in those few days before the draft. I will probably have to make my way around the media circuit at some point as well. And then it is Draft Day, marking the beginning of a new chapter in life.

It has been a long, but fun, ride. I can see the end nearing and the future beginning. There is so much more that will happen within these next couple of weeks. So stay tuned for another glimpse into my world as I make this jump into the NFL.