This time last year, I was back home in Pennsylvania, and my friends and family were over at the house watching the Draft. Everyone was having a blast, my Mom was serving a bunch of food. My stepdad kept writing down every pick, keeping track of every time an offensive lineman was selected. I was actually playing Xbox to take my mind off of what was going on. It was a party for me, but I wasn't really a part of it.
I was nervous, especially because I didn't want everyone to come over my house and then not end up getting drafted that day. So I kept the group at my house kind of small, with the people who helped me get to that point.
Everyone was watching together in the living room. I remember D.J. Fluker was the fourth offensive tackle taken (he went 11th). Everyone knew I'd be the next offensive tackle. And then I got the call. First I talked to Giants'General Manager Jerry Reese, then Coach Coughlin. I don't even remember what they said. I just kept saying "yes, sir"and "I'm so excited to be a Giant."It was all very surreal.
My best friend filmed the whole thing. He posted the video on YouTube and it went viral the next day. It still gives me goosebumps to watch it. Here's the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-9lhgBXPEk
Even though my friends, who are diehard Eagles fans (one of them even has the Eagles logo tattooed on his chest), couldn't believe I'd be playing for the Giants, they were very happy for me. We celebrated all night!
Getting drafted by the Giants was the best situation for me and I couldn't be happier with where I'm at. And now when we play the Eagles, my friends cheer for me AND the Eagles offense!
One important thing to learn is how to deal with the criticism. After the Senior Bowl, people started saying my arms were too short and that it was a red flag. It was tough to read, but I knew it was part of the business, and my agent kept reminding me of that. People are going to say stuff they don't like about you. That's how life is. Don't listen to the criticism; you know what type of player and guy you are. People are going to badmouth you, but your job is to go out there and play well for whoever drafts you. For me, I just went out there and played football. I used the criticism as motivation to keep me going. And I played well.
One of the biggest adjustments is going from college, where you are the man, back to the bottom of the totem pole. Earn your respect by the way you play, not by talking. Work hard and earn respect by what you do, not by what you say.
My family was huge in the Draft process. My stepdad probably read every article about me since I was at Syracuse. He told me the good, the bad and the ugly. I called and talked to him about the workouts, about what we were hearing. My mom was worried because she didn't want her baby getting drafted to somewhere across the country. She was nervous! My family and my group of seven best friends who I grew up with were so excited for me and supportive the whole time! And being with my family during the Draft was the best thing that happened to me.
I prepared for the Draft down in Atlanta with Chip Smith for six weeks. It was a blue-collar atmosphere, and I worked hard. I did well with the team interviews, and I was able to showcase my skills during the Senior Bowl.