I will never forget my draft experience, and if I can share this with any of the young men preparing for May 8-10, I'm happy to help. For me, the experience of draft day, 1979, started with high hopes and then turned into a nightmare before, finally, becoming a dream come true.
I spent the first round of the draft in the office of my lawyer, Marvin Demoff. We didn't have anything big planned, because it was about business for me. There was no ESPN back then. There was no big party. Now it's different. Back then, we were preparing to find out my future.
I was told going into the draft by the New Orleans Saints that if I was still on the board then they picked, at No. 11 overall, I would be their guy. I was on the board at 11, but instead they took a kicker from Texas named Russell Erxleben. A kicker! I couldn't believe it.
I had also been told by the Los Angeles Rams that if I was still on the board at 19, I would be their guy. Didn't happen. They went with George Andrews, a linebacker from Nebraska. I was like, "Oh, my goodness."
So I was concerned as I listened to the radio to find out what was going to happen. Every time the phone rang, I thought it would be my call. We had a CBS television camera in my lawyer's office trying to capture the moment. It was very special. I was all ready for the big day. One time it rang and it was my mom, and she said, "I love you, Pumpkin. Things will work out. Good luck."
At that point I looked at the board and saw a bunch of cold-weather teams. Here I am, a Los Angeles kid, and all I could think about was playing in cold weather! Finally, it happened. At 21 in the first round, I got the call. And it came from Coach Dick Vermeil, who recruited me to UCLA out of high school. And I couldn't have been happier. I was so excited. All of that waiting and the agony and the ups and downs paid off. I was going from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and that it would be a big adjustment, but that didn't bother me a bit. I was going to be around Coach Vermeil, who I love to this day, and Lynn Stiles, an assistant coach at UCLA who was then an assistant coach with the Eagles.
To go to Philadelphia with that supporting cast was a great start to my career. I flew to Philadelphia the next day and I was walking to baggage claim in the airport and people were cheering and I was like, "I'm going to enjoy Philadelphia." I was picked up by Mr. Tose's (Leonard, former team owner) driver in his stretch limousine and I was ready to get it going. I was so excited. Everybody I saw, I waved to them and they waved back and it was like I instantly belonged.
That was the start of my career in the NFL. It lasted 13 seasons. I cherish the times I played in Philadelphia in front of such great fans. We made it to the Super Bowl in 1980, and even though we didn't win it, it was an incredible experience. I made so many great friends who I will have forever. I wear my Eagles gear to this day in the streets and I will for the rest of my life.
With all the time that has passed and I look back at the day, it was the greatest day for me as a football player. That was my moment in history. I was the 21st player selected in the 1979 NFL draft and that will never change. It was a priceless experience to be an Eagle and to have the success I had.