The first thing that you notice when entering Draft Town, a fan festival in Grant Park outside of where the Draft is actually taking place, is that it’s all about measurements. Measuring who is the fastest, strongest, biggest, most athletic.
You can measure yourself should you be curious how far down on the food chain you would fall if the world descended into a Mad Max-like wasteland, where you’re forced to compete with defensive ends and linebackers for food and shelter.
There are shuttle runs, broad jumps, and vertical leaps. There’s even a 40-yard dash where you race not just other contestants, but a virtual image of some of the NFL’s fastest players. This is me, measuring myself against three other normal dudes and a virtual Torrey Smith, whose 4.36 smokes us all, especially me in the khakis slowing up at the end.
Mike Mayock would probably say I have a weak motor, but Vans ain’t easy to run in. Even in cleats, though, my 6.7 would have been beaten handily by linemen with more than 100 pounds on me. Linemen like Laremy Tunsil, from Ole Miss.
If you’re Laremy Tunsil, you’ve already been measured in every way that matters. You’ve already done the vertical leap (28 1/2 inches), the broad jump (9 feet, 3 inches) and benched 225 pounds, 34 times in a row. You probably thought all your measuring was done, for tonight, at least, until the cottage industry of Draft Grades goes to work next Monday. But you’d be wrong. After testing, and prodding, and measuring every aspect they could of you at the Combine, and Pro Days, and over the past three years of play at Ole Miss, teams found one more way to measure you tonight — as a liability.
While sitting in the Green Room, waiting to be called to fulfill a lifelong dream, Tunsil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were reportedly hacked, with whoever hacked them posting a supposed two-year-old video of Tunsil smoking marijuana in a gas mask, and later, text message conversations between him and a coach at Ole Miss asking for money to help pay rent.
Now, set aside the fact that this was a player people already knew had smoked weed in college before, and let’s also, despite how absurd it sounds, ignore the fact that begging for money from your coach to pay rent when you make millions of dollars for your school and are simply not allowed to work even a part-time job is absolutely ridiculous. For a myriad of terrible reasons, both are strikes against the NCAA rule book and deemed to be “character flaws” by the men who are, even as you sit, measuring you against hundreds of other potential draftees.
In the end, the measurement of his financial worth fell, too, several million dollars lower, in fact, all while he sat in a chair in the Green Room. If this were 2015, the difference between 13th, where Tunsil was drafted, and sixth, where the Ravens took an offensive lineman that many had ranked below him, is over $6 million. In every measurement possible, he was literally the same man he had been an hour before, only now he was deemed to be worth $6 million less. Measure up the worst things you ever did in college — I bet they didn’t cost you six thousand dollars.
If you’re Laremy Tunsil, that’s how your experience at Draft Town went last night. But the real bitch of it all would not have been made apparent until you’re leaving, and you look back to see on the auditorium that contains all the athletes and the draft itself, a banner that says “Welcome to the Family.” What it really means is “Welcome to the Family, If You’re Good Enough.” Laremy is supposed to feel wanted, and accepted, and cared for. But how could he possibly feel that way after he found out on Thursday that, for some, he just doesn’t measure up?
You just learned in one night what took many players, like Joey Harrington, their whole career to learn: The NFL doesn’t care about you, but it needs you. But only for as long as you’re good enough. The Dolphins needed him, needed him enough to take the “risk” others passed on. But when they don’t, Laremy Tunsil will get to see all over again what it’s like to not be deemed good enough.