So, the first round of 2011 NFL draft is over and the excitement was at an all-time high.
With the lockout and talk of litigation keeping the NFL in our minds and on our tongues on a daily basis, we watched the hopes and dreams of the next wave of young men take the biggest step of their football career.
Of course, Cam Newton was taken with the first overall selection, as was predicted. The Atlanta Falcons made the biggest trade—handing over five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns to move from No. 27 to No. 6 and select Julio Jones.
The Tennessee Titans came in with the first shocker, selecting Jake Locker from Washington as the eighth overall pick, before Minnesota gave us the biggest head-scratcher of all and drafted Christian Ponder at No. 12.
However, the most surprising, amazing and purely emotional moment goes to Mark Ingram—selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 28th overall pick.
At first he was fine, when his name was announced and he shook Roger Goodell's hand.
However, as he walked off stage, Ingram was approached by ESPN's Suzy Kolber and was read an email from his incarcerated father.
You see, Mark Ingram Sr. is in the middle of a seven-year federal sentence for laundering and bank fraud.
He had additional time tacked on to his sentence after jumping bail in 2009 to watch his son—then a freshman—take part in the Sugar Bowl. Hours before kickoff, Mark Sr. was apprehended in a hotel room and returned to jail.
He trained his son from early youth. He taught and developed him to not only play but love the game of football—knowing the fundamentals and mental training it took to persevere in climbing to and succeeding at the highest level.
As a father, I can relate. No, my son is not in the NFL, but I loved teaching him sports as a child and training him to achieve greatness in whatever sport he liked at that moment.
I coached him in football when he was in just second grade. I coached him and 11 other young boys, aged eight and nine, in basketball and spent countless hours training them just to learn the fundamentals, practice hard and have fun.
Oh, and yes, our team went 10-0 and won our league's championship.
I can fully understand the emotions that these young men must feel. After having achieved acceptance to the most elite level of sporting competition on the planet, the men that helped them get there aren't there to enjoy it and embrace them.
Ingram isn't the only one. It actually started with Von Miller, drafted No. 2 overall to the Denver Broncos.
He knew he was to be drafted in the top three, and yet, as soon as he realized that the moment had arrived and he heard his name announced—the lifelong dream accomplished—the pure emotion came out.
Still, these two were not alone.
Adrian Clayborn, selected at the No. 21 spot by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, welled up with tears. Phil Taylor from Baylor, picked at the No. 22 spot by Cleveland, had his emotions running down his cheeks. Anthony Castonzo, taken at the No. 22 spot by the Indianapolis Colts, cheered and screamed with pride.
Cam Heyward—whose father is also a former NFL player—chosen by the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 31, had tears streaming down his face.
Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Cam's father, was diagnosed in 1989 with a malignant bone cancer at the base of his skull that was pressing on the optic nerve.
After it was partially removed in a 12-hour operation, he underwent 40 rounds of radiation treatments and was later pronounced cancer-free. However, in 2005, the tumor recurred and he died on May 27, 2006 at the age of 39.
Yes, the man who was at the core of Cam's heart and feelings, the one whom his son idolized early on in life and helped to create the passion and desire to become a better player and a better man is not even alive to share in his son's proudest moment.
Forget all the glitz and glamour of the draft. Forget all the egos and ridiculous amounts of money that's going to be spent on these young men—this draft will always be indelibly etched in my mind for a different reason altogether.
This was the draft that taught us there are still yet young sincere people who are thankful for the opportunities they are given, who aren't afraid to show the world their true feelings and gratitude for what they have been given.