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Peter King's Football Morning In America: 2020 NFL Draft – NBCSports.com, Nbcsports.com

[John Gutekunst was the head coach at the University of Minnesota in the eighties]

What the [Louisville tackle Mekhi] NFL Draft would have been like , Vegas style:

Roger Goodell, from an island in the middle of the luxe pond just off the Strip in Las Vegas, announces to the crowd of , and to America: “With the (th pick in the [Picks] NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Cesar Ruiz, center, Michigan. ” . . . The ESPN camera posted on a high wall in the Saints draft room shows a grainy coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis high-fiving. . . As three cameras zoom in on him, Ruiz, in his $ 3, custom-made suit, steps onto a little boat to take him to a red carpet. . . He puts on a Saints cap, climbs onto the red carpet to fireworks overhead, fountains pulsing on all sides of him. . . Ruiz approaches Goodell, and though he is a humble kid who’d never do this in real life, chest-bumps the NFL commissioner. They bearhug. For the cameras, Goodell holds up the black-and-gold Saints jersey with RUIZ on the back. The crowd of , goes nuts. A fist-pumping Ruiz beams in this manufactured moment. What the [Louisville tackle Mekhi] NFL Draft actually was, pandemic style:

Roger Goodell, tie-less, from his wood-paneled basement 30 miles north of New York City, announces with not much verve: “With the (th pick in the [the criticism] NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Cesar Ruiz, center, Michigan. ” . . . An iPhone on a portable tripod shoots Ruiz, in a camo T-shirt, live in his modest family home in rugged Camden, N.J. He dons a Saints cap and bawls, overcome by the moment. His mom, the rock of the family after his good-Samaritan dad was struck and killed by a car when he stopped to help a stranded driver change a tire in envelops Cesar as he weeps. . . Saints coach Sean Payton — in a hoodie, son Connor to his side, a bag of Twizzlers in front of him — watches the pick on TV in his living room. Across town at his home, GM Mickey Loomis gets a hug from son Sam, with daughter Lucy beaming nearby. . . A small group of friends and family in the Ruiz home whoop it up. . . There is no Saints jersey, no crowd of , . There is middle-class America, as a family celebrates its finest hour.

Glitzy / glamorous NFL, or humble / Americana NFL. What’s better?

We saw this weekend what’s better. It took a murderous virus to humanize the money machine that is the NFL, and to humanize a cold man who might have had his finest moment as commissioner, and to humanize the steely coach feeding treats to his miniature Husky. But that’s exactly what happened in this technologically scotch-taped th NFL Draft. For three days in the sports-starved United States, it was just what we needed — the one thing on the sports calendar that was notcellable, presented with the humility these times demanded. One story: This was Joe Douglas’ first draft as the GM of the New York Jets. He’d risen through the scouting departments of the Ravens and Bears and Eagles to this mountainous gig. He’d have to draft from the impromptu setup in his New Jersey home, not in his comfort zone of the Jets draft room. His wife, Shannon, offered to keep their three children in the basement, away from his temp draft room, but he said no, he wanted them to experience it. Shannon used her iPhone to video his first pick — tackle Mekhi Becton — from just outside the room Thursday night, and when it was done, the kids burst in. His 27 – year-old daughter, Addison, hugged him and said, “I am so proud of you, Dad!”

“All right, Addison,” Douglas said. “You’re making me misty here.”

The burly Douglas got misty on national TV, with about 31 million people watching. There was a lot of emotion in the best NFL draft I’ve ever seen.

thick column. Settle in, stay safe, and digest all the oddities and goodness about draft weekend:

[Picks] Surprise! I’m in a draft room! (Virtually.) Much ado about nothing: Drafting (football players went off without a hitch.

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