Three Days On The Parkway Taking pride in my hometown nfl draft


Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, I felt like I’ve spent a good portion of my life sticking up for my hometown.

I went to college in New York and whenever my Philly roots came up so did my need to defend the city. I always had to make the case that Philly wasn’t just a “little brother” to other, bigger cities.

But this weekend made all that defensiveness fade away. As 250,000 people filled the Ben Franklin Parkway and millions more watched from home, Philadelphia – my city – shined so very brightly. As the host of the 2017 NFL Draft it was on a large stage and took advantage of every star-struck moment.

I had the privilege of attending night one at the draft, and spent the next two days watching on TV from the NovaCare Complex.

And as I watched, I felt pride – a pride that grew with each day of the large-scale festival.

I never attended the draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, but I was in Chicago in 2016. I enjoyed every second of that first round along the shores of Lake Michigan, especially being able to interview Carson Wentz in the moments following his handshake with Roger Goodell. But the draft in Chicago felt like it was just a small piece of what that big city had to offer that weekend. The draft, and all of the excitement that comes along with it, was tucked away into a theater and was a bit lost in the hustle and bustle of the Windy City.

But the very second I set foot on the Parkway, I knew this NFL Draft was something different.

This was special.

Walking through the free NFL Draft experience at around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I was overwhelmed by how many people I saw around me – about 80 percent in Eagles gear. As I made my way toward the Media Pavilion, which was set up behind the main stage on the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, I could feel the excitement of the crowd. I saw their emotion as they lined up to get their picture with Carson Wentz or showed off their field goal kicking abilities (I don’t think Caleb Sturgis has to worry). The spirit of fun and excitement was palpable.

At 8 o’clock, the NFL Draft officially kicked off. Yes, the opening broadcast montages displayed the usual clichéd Philadelphia highlights. You know the drill – cheesesteaks and Rocky. But as night fell, the main stars of the evening became the fans and how much fun they were having, much to the delight of the somewhat surprised TV announcers. Fans seemed to live and die with every pick. They jeered on NFC East rivals. And, of course, they booed. Boy, did they boo. They even carried signs that simply read “BOO” – you’ve got to give the fans credit for creativity.

But, mostly they cheered. And so did I, at least internally, especially when Derek Barnett donned his Eagles cap and was introduced in front of his new hometown family.

As we left the pavilion that night, I looked up at the Art Museum and then out onto the Parkway, where 100,000 people were standing. I had to stop and think about what I had just seen and how lucky I was to be a part of it. I won’t forget it anytime soon.

Looking back on this past weekend, I think about all the work that went into making this NFL Draft happen. Fourteen months of negotiations and planning went into those three days. Thousands of people contributed in different ways to put Philadelphia on the main stage of the NFL world, and the city and the fans reciprocated by soaking it all in and enjoying everything the draft had to offer, without ever going over the line or doing anything to dampen the overwhelming positivity of the event.

This is the city that I love, that we all love. This is our home. There always was so much to think about when you named Philadelphia beyond soft pretzels or water ice. There always was incredible history all around, with cultural superstars like the Art Museum and Independence Hall to name just two. But now, there will be another image in the minds of those who watched this city shine. They’ll think about our passion, our personality, a gorgeous skyline, and a city that played the perfect host to this NFL extravaganza.

As for me, I will always remember what it felt like to look up at the Art Museum on that stunning Thursday night and then looking down to see my Eagles lapel pin – my city, my team.

And I’ll feel pride — nothing but pride.

Photography by Kiel Leggere, Drew Hallowell

Created By
Philadelphia Eagles

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