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KANSAS CITY — The NFL invited 17 prospects to the NFL draft with the expectation all would be picked in the first round, walk across the stage, hug commissioner Roger Goodell, and make a memory of a lifetime in one grand evening.
Except Will Levis wasn’t picked in the first round.
And Joey Porter Jr. wasn’t picked in the first round.
Keion White wasn’t picked in the first round.
And Brian Branch wasn’t picked in the first round.
But rather than come back Friday to get a another chance at hearing their names called in the second round, all those men left Thursday night and declined to return for another try on Friday.
He was the only one who decided to finish what he started.
Brian Branch Shows Character
The Alabama defensive back boarded a bus full of family on Friday afternoon and headed back to the NFL’s green room to await his big if only delayed draft moment. And he got it when the Detroit Lions selected him with the 45th overall selection in the second round.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Branch said. “Not too many people can do this. To shake the commissioner’s hands, be in front of fans like that and see the interaction with everybody … the vibe in Kansas City right now, I’m just happy I participated in that.
“You know, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. But I’m blessed. I’m a Lion. It shows my character is bigger than football.”
It’s impossible to disagree.
Will Levis Had Enough Of Green Room
The story of Levis apparently wilting under the scrutiny of TV cameras focusing on him will be a lasting one from this draft. And obviously he wasn’t alone.
But Branch refusing to flee should be just as notable. Because Branch left the draft Thursday feeling every bit as much disappointment as the others. He left knowing he hadn’t packed a second suit to wear on Friday. But he still refused to hide.
“It’s the chip I needed,” Branch said. “Not hearing my name called, it sucks. But I’m ready to prove everybody wrong that passed on me. And I’m just blessed the Lions took that chance and gave me that opportunity. And I’m ready to fill it.”
This is not about a player deciding to stay in the spotlight for the sake of attention. This is about a player not bowing when the attention was uncomfortable. About a guy deciding sitting in a huge green room with his family and friends was not the crushing life experience the others apparently decided it is.
Detroit’s Brian Branch Perseveres
And now I ask you to recall these guys play football for a living.
If they think missing out on the goal of being drafted in the first round was tough, wait until training camp comes along and their goal of being stars is rewarded with third-string repetitions. Wait until January professional football comes around.
Let’s see when professional coaches and a demanding fan base climb down their throats.
“Things are not always going to go your way,” Branch said. “You just have to keep persevering and keep moving forward.”