Dreams do come true

Adam Hayward is just hours away from landing his dream job.

Adam Hayward is just hours away from landing his dream job. He is as close as he will ever be to learning whether a lifetime of devotion and taxing labor is enough to earn him a promotion to the NFL. This should be an extremely nerve-racking time for the former Portland State standout, but in the days leading up to the draft he is already taking it all like a professional.

Draft day can be one of the best or worst experiences ever for an NFL prospect. It’s really a spectacle defined by the ring of a phone. If a prospect’s phone lights up, there is most likely a coach on the other end willing to transform years of grueling workouts into loads of cash and an NFL future. But, if the phone remains without a hint of action, he will be forced to fight his way through training camp in hopes of making the roster. The anticipation of that special phone call can be too stressful for many. Hayward, who clocked a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, is a different breed. With one of the most significant days of his life on the horizon, he is just trying to pass time.

“Coming into the weekend, I feel all right. You know, a lot of my family and friends are more excited about me and the whole experience than I am right now,” said Hayward. “I’m just trying to do stuff-like the other day I went to Sea World–to keep my mind off the draft. It’s a business, so you never know what is going to happen. I try not to think about it too much.”

During the past few weeks, the hard-nosed linebacker has been occupying his time meeting with coaches and players in team visits. Hayward has accumulated a short list of teams with which he has met, including the Seahawks, Buccaneers, Giants and Packers.

“The visits were kind of cool, seeing the facilities and history of the teams. It was also cool to meet with the coaches and attend position meetings, and also breaking down film with the NFL teams–it was interesting to see how it goes down in the NFL. When I visited with Tampa Bay,” said Hayward, “I got to meet head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Joe Barry, linebackers coach.”

While Hayward was rubbing shoulders with some of the NFL brass at his various visits, he stumbled across a few perks for the professionals. Surprisingly, the most influential aspect wasn’t meeting superstar players, because as Hayward put it, “they’re all just a bunch of guys doing something they love.”

“The coolest thing on my visits was probably just being able to check out what professional facilities are like and how much money they put into it,” said the former Viking. “A lot of these places make it like home, so you are there from like six in the morning all the way to seven at night. And there is food, and it’s just awesome because they’ve got these cooks who make anything you want. There is also a lounge area with video games and TVs–they just make it like home.”

Although the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year wasn’t star-struck by the players he came across while meeting with teams, he found a quick chat with one of the NFL’s most gifted wide receivers a powerful and rewarding experience.

“I met with Steve Smith, wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, the other day. He and I were just talking about the process, and he was being real with me about what goes on in the NFL, because he has been there for seven years now. It was pretty cool just to talk with him about the draft and league,” Hayward said.

Relaxing and taking it easy has helped Hayward keep his cool as the draft approaches.

“When I talk with teams, they seem pretty interested for the most part. It’s kind of like they wouldn’t be talking to me if they weren’t. So, I feel like I have a pretty good shot, but I want to wait until Sunday night when I know exactly what I’m doing,” Hayward said. “On draft day, I’m just going to hang out with some friends and have the draft on as background noise. But I’m really going to make sure my phone is in an area with service. Steve [Smith] told me the anticipation can be too much, so I don’t how know much I’m going to watch.”

Hayward draft status: Hayward will fall to the second day of the draft and could go as high as the fifth round.