NFL draft prospects savor Las Vegas experience

NFL draft prospects savor Las Vegas experience

The 21 invited NFL draft prospects will take part in an over-the-top experience Thursday as they celebrate their welcome to the league moment.

All the future pro football players will start their draft day at the much talked about red carpet stage over the Fountains of Bellagio. There they will walk the magenta carpet and do media interviews.

After they complete the interviews and get their Instagram-able moment out of the way, they will be transported down Flamingo Road in sprinter vans to the NFL draft theater area behind the Linq.

“The experience is going to be pretty crazy,” said Drake London, a wide receiver from USC. “I haven’t even seen the setup yet, but I know people have been talking about it. It’s really going to be special for all of us.”

Potential No. 1 pick Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan said he’s not really sure what to expect going into Thursday night. He’ll just go with the flow and go where NFL staff directs him.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing. People just tell me where to go and I go,” Hutchinson said. “I don’t know where I’m going to be, but it’s going to be a good time tomorrow, no matter what.”

When the players arrive at the main draft area they will be ushered to the green room area, where they’ll get to hang out with the family and friends ahead of hearing their name announced on stage by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

This year, more than others, there was a big focus on hospitality for the players and their families, which made the Caesars Forum convention center being adjacent to the draft theater that much more of a plus for the NFL.

“We’ve created a real living room lounge environment for them to be able to feel really comfortable and confident as they’re waiting to see where they’re going to end up,” said Heather Nanberg, NFL director of events. “That space is fully air conditioned and a nice cozy spot to hang out.”

Having his mother, father, sister and grandmother in Las Vegas to be part of the experience is a big deal for London, one of the top wideouts in the draft.

“I just hope I don’t cry,” London said. “If I see my mom or my grandma cry, it’s going to be hard to hold those tears back.”

Once the players share a moment with their group, they’ll walk out onto the draft stage, shake Goodell’s hand, receive his now customary bear hug and their team’s draft cap.

After that each player picked will go into the crowd at the draft theater to their team’s spot in the Inner Circle. That area features 20 fans chosen by each team to represent them in the stage-side seating area.

That’s where players will celebrate with the fans that will be cheering them on in the future.

“They’ll have an opportunity to meet with the little group of fans,” Nanberg said. “We’ll call that our selfie moment. That’s a thing we could do in Nashville, but couldn’t do in Cleveland because of Covid. So excited for it to be back in full force here. To be able to have those celebratory moments with fans. That’s what makes the draft so special.”

Prospects will make their way to the media room from there where they will conduct their first interviews as NFL players.

After the media rounds, the prospects and their friends and families will be driven to their hotel where they can wind down the night.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Chris Olave, a wide receiver from Ohio State. “There’s a lot of emotions and a lot of excitement. It’s something that we dreamed of since we were young. Just to be in the moment and actually feel it, I’m excited.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.