IF THE HAT FITS: The dream of a Draft Day

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Derek Hatridge, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
·2 min read
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May 1—When you hear the chime, you know it's time.

Unintended rhyme aside, this rings true for a lot of football fans this time of year as we watch and celebrate — or sometimes bemoan the decisions — during the National Football League Draft.

I eagerly watched to see who went to what team, expressed a little bit of confusion at Dallas trading down, and then got the biggest smile of the night when Zaven Collins' name was called.

By now, you probably know his story. A product of Hominy, Oklahoma, Collins attended college at the University of Tulsa where he became a national sensation. Many wins and awards later, his dream would come true on Thursday night as he was drafted 16th by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round — Tulsa's first first-round choice since 1977.

Collins' reaction was my — albeit a little biased — favorite of the night. But what was just as cool as that moment was what happened in Hominy on the very football field Collins got his start.

They hosted a draft watch party for one of their own, with lawn chairs and blankets scattered across the field and a projector playing the big moment. There were many cheers and smiles as they cheered for one of their own. That's football in small town Oklahoma.

And honestly, it got me to thinking of the future. Across multiple sports in the local area, we have boys and girls moving on to play college sports at various levels. That accomplishment alone is incredible. But what would it be like if the next Zaven Collins was right here?

Like I said, it could be any sport. But let me paint a picture.

It's draft day, and the town is abuzz with excitement. Where will they go? What team is the best fit? Stores are running specials, and the town is painted with school colors in every spot imaginable.

As the time draws near, fans flock to Hook Eales Stadium. There's laughter, a little music from the band, and an electric energy that you can't quite put a finger on. The league commissioner pops onto a portable screen — with smiles and boos from the crowd — and he opens the card as he changes so many lives with one sentence.

Okay, so I'm romanticizing a possible future. But can you blame me? The dream can happen for anyone. It's happened here before, and something tells me it's going to happen again and again.

And sure, maybe I'm biased about our kids here. But I think we have an extraordinary crop of athletes that are also even better people. So to our area athletes, dream that dream and put in the work. That's what it'll take to make it a reality, and we'll be with you every step of the way.

Contact Derek Hatridge at dhatridge@mcalesternews.com.