The live television coverage of the NFL Draft will show faces of anxious players, the smiles and tears of joy as they walk across the stage and sweeping scenes of the host city of Chicago. What you won't see are the 2,500 staff members and volunteers who are working behind the scenes to make sure the event unfolds as planned.
"From an event standpoint we're taking what used to be a one-ring circus in Radio City Music Hall and turning it into a full three-ring circus," said Peter O'Reilly, NFL Senior Vice President of Events.
For the first time in 51 years, the NFL Draft will occur outside of New York. It gave O'Reilly and his team a chance to reinvent the experience and re-define an event that is particularly close to his heart.
"Before I worked at the NFL and I was just in New York and working in my early 20's, I'd go to the draft as a fan and sit there for all the rounds of the draft when it was in Madison Square Garden and other locales, when it was a much smaller event, when it wasn't in primetime," O'Reilly said. "I'm a huge college fan. To me it's incredibly special to be in the role I am now with the draft to see it become bigger and expand to include more fans to experience it."
This year the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University will host the first and second rounds of the draft. That's where you can see the players walk across the stage and hug the commissioner. Grant Park will host Selection Square and Draft Town, and according to O'Reilly is where the core of the draft experience will take place.
"We have areas set up for all 32 teams. There's an AFC row and an NFC row and each team will be represented in their "team house" that will be designed and customized for the team so fans can really connect with their fellow fans."
Seahawks fans across the country will congregate and watch the draft unfold on large screens with Blitz and members of the Sea Gals. The setup was designed to bring football-starved fans together and put them in the heart of the action.
"For us, we know the draft is unlike some of our other events," O'Reilly said. "Whether it's the Super Bowl or other games where it's really about those two teams, this is an event that's really about every single team. Every fan has hope and every fan is feeling like this is the opportunity for this to be their year. So many fans are starving for the NFL to come back in full. This draft creates a bigger footprint and event and gives us a chance to create a big oasis in the middle of the offseason for fans to have fun, experience the draft, bond and get a little closer to their team or to the NFL."
The final four rounds of the draft take place Saturday and for the first time ever the league will allow teams to make selections from their own remote locations. The Seahawks will be using Joint Base Lewis-McChord as their hub on what could be a very busy day. All but two of the Seahawks 11 picks are scheduled to come in rounds four through seven.
"We are thrilled to host Day 3 of the NFL Draft at JBLM and involve members of all five military branches in the announcement of Seahawks draft picks," said VP Community Outreach Mike Flood. "It provides a great opportunity for our players and staff to interact with this vital group of Seahawks fans and thank them for their dedicated service."
"On behalf of the service members here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Pacific Northwest, especially all our men and women who are deployed and in harm's way, I want to thank the Seahawks for letting us take part in this very unique draft-day experience. I know both Lieutenant General Lanza, I Corps Commander, and Colonel Chuck Hodges, JBLM Commander, would echo my sentiment that we greatly value our enduring partnership with the Seahawks organization and appreciate all the many things they have done for our service members throughout the years."
The NFL Draft starts Thursday night and continues through Saturday. Teams have ten minutes to make first-round selections on Thursday, seven minutes to make second-round selections and five minutes for third-round selections on Friday. Saturday, rounds four through six will have a five-minute window and seventh-round picks have been reduced to four minutes and all compensatory picks will be a four-minute duration.