(Reuters) - Selection in the first round of the NFL Draft is a huge step toward financial security and the realization of a lifelong dream for the players, and their reactions were quite on the expected lines on Thursday.
Two players in particular were emotionally charged after hearing their name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the giant stage erected on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Garett Bolles, an offensive tackle from Utah, held his baby son Kingston in his powerful arms as he walked onto the stage after Goodell announced he had been taken with the 20th pick by the Denver Broncos.
“I’m beyond grateful. This is just a dream come true,” said the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Bolles, whose journey to the NFL took longer than most.
Bolles, who will turn 25 next month, led a troubled childhood, including drug use and jail time.
“I always believed in myself and believed I could get here. I just didn’t know how,” Bolles said.
Things were so bad his father kicked him out of the house and he moved in with his lacrosse coach and eventually turned his life around.
“Everyone told me I can’t make it here, and everyone doubted me and did not believe in me, but all those kids out there that struggle with a learning disability or get in trouble with the law, it doesn’t matter.
“Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it, because you can make it,” he told the NFL Network.
The journey included two years of repairing garages, a two-year Mormon mission, and junior college before going on to the University of Utah.
Six picks later, defensive end Takkarist McKinley of UCLA strode onto the stage carrying a portrait of his grandmother after being announced as the choice of the Atlanta Falcons.
McKinley repeatedly shouted that he dedicated his achievements to his grandmother, who inspired him on her death bed.
“I told her, before she passed away, I was going to win my dream. ‘I’m going to get out of Oakland, I’m going to go to the NFL.’
“I made that promise to her. Thirty seconds later she passed away. And it’s who I do it for, it’s who I do it for,” he shouted.
“I love you grandma. It’s only the beginning.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty