It was the moment that Eagles fans had waited all day and into the night for Thursday. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had been showered with boos the entire night, announced who the Birds were taking in the first round of the first Draft held in the city in almost 60 years.
“With the 14th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select Derek Barnett. Defensive End. Tennessee…” he said.
The reaction was mixed from the largely pro-Eagles crowd. There were a fair amount of cheers and definitely some boos. A number of fans immediately headed for the exits after the pick.
One pick prior, Temple University linebacker Haason Reddick was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals to loud cheers from the capacity crowd. Reddick, a Camden, New Jersey native, was a walk-on at Temple.
He played his way into being an NFL prospect then worked his way into being a first round pick at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The journey was capped off on Thursday night, when he became the highest-drafted defensive player in Temple history.
“It meant a lot, especially to hear the uproar from the crowd when my name got called,” Reddick said. “That was beautiful. I didn’t know it was going to be that loud.
“It was way louder than I expected,” he added. “For all of this to happen in Philadelphia, it was great.”
Reddick will head west to play for Bruce Arians, who was the Owls’ head coach from 1983 to 1988. Meanwhile, despite the mixed reaction Barnett said he was encouraged and excited to get going in Philadelphia.
“I didn’t wanna hear no boos,” he said jokingly after being selected. “I got a warm welcome and I appreciate the fans for giving me a warm welcome and I appreciate the fans for giving me a warm welcome, because I had no clue where I was going.
“You know how the Draft works,” he added. “You never know where you’re going to go.”
The Draft has Evolved
While the league has yet to say where it’s going next year, this year’s draft has set up to be a massive success for Philadelphia. The NFL announced on Friday morning that more than 100,000 attended Thursday’s draft festivities.
The Draft, which was last held in Philadelphia in 1961, was held in Chicago last year after nearly 50 years in New York. It has become a multi-layered event on par with the league’s signature event: the Super Bowl.
Its evolution has involved more than simply changing the number of rounds or venues, but technology and increased knowledge of college player’s lives.
“Now with social media and cameras everywhere, fans know who these kids are,” Steve Mariucci, a host and analyst for the NFL Network said. Mariucci was a long time NFL assistant as well the head coach at the University of California-Berkeley and for parts of eight seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions .
“This is my, I don’t know, 26th Draft — God, I’m getting old — and it wasn’t always like this,” he said. “They know their personal lives. They know what makes them tick. It just gets more, and more, and more. I guess that’s a good thing if you’re a football fan.”
The Draft is also good for business in Philadelphia, even if road closures and construction caused headaches for motorists and residents living in Fairmount. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has seen a number of major events come to Philadelphia during his tenure and sees these events as a showcase for the city.
“The first big event in my administration was the pope’s visit and I heard a lot of people coming from all over the country — all over the world, actually — saying what a wonderful place this was,” Wolf said on Thursday afternoon. “And then the DNC. The same thing.
“But Philadelphia — and a few complaints about the traffic — but people really love the city,” he added, “and I think we’re going to hear the same thing here.”
Marriucci said that the league has not made clear its plans for next year’s Draft and what the plan is going forward. He applauded what the city of Philadelphia has done but wonders about the future
“Will we be back here another year or will we start moving this thing around year-by-year? Because there’s a lot of work and there’s a lot of logistics to get this planned and streets closed and stages built. It’s a lot of work to just have it one-and-done.”