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Waiting To Exhale

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For hopeful draftees, the NFL Draft brings out a plethora of emotions. The three day event, which takes place annually at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, can be just as invigorating as heartbreaking. There are no guarantees; no one--not an agent, not a coach, not an analyst--is an expert. For many late-round picks, the wait can make a player feel more helpless than they’ve ever felt on a football field.

Former Pitt offensive lineman Jason Pinkston was one such NFL Draft hopeful. And while the left tackle was all but guaranteed to be drafted, it still turned out to be a stressful turn of events for Pinkston.

Monday, April 25 – four days before the 2011 NFL Draft
Pinkston started the draft week the same way he had begun every week since the NCAA season ended, with a workout. His nearly three-hour workout session consisted of over six miles on the elliptical, power training and lifting. But Pinkston acknowledged that when training for the NFL, one workout a day is not enough. Instead, the lineman works out on his own in the morning, and then again in the afternoon with his trainer.

“It’s kind of surreal right now just knowing that I’ve wanted to do this my whole life, and now knowing that it’s the week of the draft, it’s a lot of nerves. I can’t believe it’s happening,” Pinkston said. “It’s a lot of nerves, but I’m just trying to relax because I know that I’ve done everything I can.”

Tuesday, April 26 – three days before the 2011 NFL Draft
The long and tenuous journey to NFL-hopeful has been well-documented in the past for Pinkston. From his rough childhood, to the array of injuries he endured throughout his career, Pinkston had every reason to give up.

But his perseverance stems from one motivating factor: His beloved mother Margaret, who died in May of 2008 after a year-long battle with cancer. The man nicknamed “The Big Cheese” because of his infectious smile, never forgot where he came from, which is clear in a Facebook post in the afternoon.

Jason Pinkston
It's here been working all my life for this M.J.P
April 26 at 1:44pm via iPhone


Thursday, April 28 – NFL Draft: Round 1
Pinkston had a pretty good idea that he wouldn’t hear his name called on day one, but he wanted to spend the night with his family to ease his nerves. Just because the tackle didn’t think he’d be picked, doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy the experience.

“The experience of watching the draft with my family and knowing that my name would be called was still so surreal to me,” Pinkston said. “Every time I saw an offensive lineman picked, I got a little bit more excited.”

Once the first round had ended, Pinkston wasn’t disappointed that he wasn’t selected. However, that night, he spent hours thinking about all the teams he met with, admitting that he analyzed every move he made from the end of the season until now. The following night was supposed to be the day that Pinkston and his family had been waiting for his whole life.

Friday, April 29 – NFL Draft: Rounds 2-3
As the second round began, Pinkston started to really feel the nerves, and found himself pacing from room to room. Pick by pick went by, and Pinkston understood that a number of talented players remained on the board. But when the Green Bay Packers selected Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, the tackle did the best he could to rationalize the situation.

Alright. I fell out of the second round, but they had me anywhere between a second and fourth round pick, so I’m still OK. There are still a lot of really good players left. Some of the teams are drafting for better value, not just need. Third round still isn’t bad.

Unfortunately, however, that call in the third round never came. For the first time, real disappointment set in for Pinkston. And with only two offensive tackles taken that round, Pinkston started to wonder how long he would have to wait on Saturday to hear his name.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get drafted, but I was trying to look at the big picture,” Pinkston said. “A lot of things had happened that didn’t help me, but I still believed everything would fall in place.”

Saturday, April 30 – NFL Draft: Rounds 4-7
After a sleepless night, Pinkston awoke feeling more nervous than ever. He tried to be patient, but as picks began to go by in the fourth round, he felt obligated to ask his agent questions. As the fourth round ended, doubt began to set in.

Man, if I don’t get drafted today I’m going to be sick. What did I do wrong? Are all of these kids really better than me? No way, that’s just how it goes. So what if I fall to the fifth round? I’ll still have an opportunity to get drafted, make a team and fall to the perfect situation. It will be fine.

Pinkston turned the draft off after the first couple picks in the fifth round, but his agent assured the tackle that interest was starting to pick up. Finally, 20 minutes after turning off the draft, Pinkston got the call he had been dreaming about since he was a kid.

“I saw a different area code pop up on my phone, and my heart started racing. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening,” Pinkston said. “I answered the phone and they asked, ‘How would you like to be a Cleveland Brown?’ I said, ‘I’d love to.”

The long, helpless wait had finally ended for Pinkston. And after several media sessions, phone interviews and answering over 120 text messages from friends, he was finally able to celebrate his status as an NFL player with his family. And although Pinkston may be going to the Steelers’ rival in the Cleveland Browns, he made sure to thank the people of Pittsburgh for all of their support.

Jason Pinkston
Thanks for all the love and support Pittsburgh it's been real much love to all you... M.J.P
April 30 at 4:26pm via iPhone

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