After Roger Goodell fired the starter’s pistol, the NFL draft’s first round was defined by a flurry of fashion statements — including one from Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, who took all of north Tulsa with him to center stage.
First, kudos to Nashville. When it was announced that Nashville would host the 2019 draft, I wasn’t sure how it might look on television. It looked amazing on television. Teeming with 200,000 fans, the Lower Broadway district of Music City was perfect for this epitome of football festivals.
Next, there were statements by Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma football program.
Murray was explosively conspicuous in a pink, pinstriped suit with a maroon pocket square.
It was a look that screamed, I’m the No. 1 pick in the draft! I rolled the dice, choosing football over baseball, and I achieved the ultimate distinction for any entry-level professional.
The figurative statement from Lincoln Riley, who had a few face-time moments during the NFL Network and ESPN coverage: In consecutive college football seasons, an OU quarterback won the Heisman Trophy! In consecutive drafts — for the first time ever — an OU quarterback was the first player selected!
Riley got to celebrate twice on Thursday night: after Murray was taken by Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals with the first pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown was taken by Baltimore with the 25th pick.
There were several Sooner athletes, coaches and family members in the backstage area. Nearby, there were several Alabama athletes, coaches and family members.
Within the Crimson Tide group was Jacobs, a former McLain High School superstar who averaged 15 yards per rush attempt and 246 rush yards per game — and yet somehow was mostly ignored by college recruiters until the final few weeks before Signing Day 2016.
From Jacobs, there also was a fashion statement: A classic blue suit — beautiful but understated when compared to some of the creative outfits donned by other first-round players.
His statement could have been this: The other guys can do pinstripes. This is what my suit says — draft me and I’ll carry the football 18 times for 80 yards. I’ll do it on turf or on grass and in the heat or in the cold. I’m ready to go to work.
Not until the 24th pick of the draft was any running back or wide receiver selected. While Jacobs made only three starts at Alabama, NFL decision-makers love what he might become. The Oakland Raiders spent that pick on the 5-foot-10 Jacobs.
During the Nick Saban era that began with the 2007 season, 29 Crimson Tide players have been first-round draft picks. It’s a remarkable story — Jacobs’ rise from anonymity to first-round prominence, and now he’s a Raider.
“To me,” the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said, “he’s easily the top running back in this draft.”
The 24th pick in last year’s draft — D.J. Moore of Maryland — received from the Carolina Panthers a signing bonus of $6.2 million. That money is guaranteed. Jacobs soon can afford to fill 10 closets with classic blue suits.
After a handshake-and-hug moment with Goodell, Jacobs was interviewed by the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders.
“This game means a lot to me,” Jacobs said. “I’ve got my whole city on my back right now.”
At that point, Jacobs opened his jacket to reveal a “North Tulsa” message that adorned the lining.
It was a special moment during a special night in Nashville.