A week ago, Justin Strnad got the phone call he dreamed about for years.
John Elway was on the other line. The Hall of Fame quarterback, now the general manager of the Denver Broncos, was letting Strnad know he was the team’s fifth round selection in the NFL Draft.
That phone ended the whirlwind courtship, the endless video chats, the constant questions and evaluations. The Wake Forest linebacker, who starred at East Lake, was now an NFL player.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Strnad said. “And to find out where you’re going from a legend in the game just made it even better.”
Strnad’s name flashed across the screen. The small gathering of family and friends whooped it up. Still, Strnad could help but think about those who were missing, particularly his grandfather who recently died and an uncle who passed more than a decade ago.
“This moment was for them as much as everyone else because they were such big supporters of mine,” Strnad said.
The selection was lauded by draft pundits, including Mel Kiper Jr., who said the Broncos made the best pick in the fifth round by taking Strnad.
So what was the best moment? The phone call from Elway? The praise from national television commentators?
“Just being around family,” Strnad said.
Since then, Strnad has been in video meetings with the Broncos defensive staff to start his rookie orientation. He is projected to be an inside linebacker who can excel in coverage.
Former Blake standout Isaiah Rodgers got some props, too, after the Colts took him in the sixth round. A highlight video from his college career at Massachusetts featured a song by Cardi B. The rapper found out about it and gave Rodgers a shoutout on Twitter.
Rodgers still does not know how Cardi B discovered the highlight reel. The new member of the Colts already is prepared for dealing with the spotlight. After all, his cousin is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a 12-year NFL veteran.
Syracuse punter Sterling Hofrichter, a former standout at Armwood, was taken in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons. That gives him plenty of opportunities to see his favorite childhood baseball team, the Braves.