Jeff Pearlman

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The Draft

So, as some of you know, I work on the side as an adjunct journalism professor at Manhattanville College. It’s insanely fun, and has made me want to, ultimately, teach college full time.

This semester, my only class is Intro to Journalism. It’s always a cool one to teach, because it takes me back to my early days at the University of Delaware, sitting in a classroom in Memorial Hall, hearing the legendary Chuck Stone talk about “walking right in …” to a story.

Ah, Chuck Stone

I digress. This is, I believe, my fourth Journalism One class, and, by those calculations, my fourth time concluding the semester with The Draft.

What I do is recruit 15 (or so) of my friends and acquaintances to agree to be profiled. I try and make the people as fascinating as humanly possible. Past subjects have included Olympian Bev Oden, ESPN’s Bob Ley, baseball players C.J. Nitkowski, Russ Ortiz, Brian Johnson, Sal Fasano, Jalal Leach and Ed Hearn, media folks like Roy Firestone and Matt O’Donnell and Chris Ballard and Andy Dallos and Jonathan Eig; musicians like Travis Warren and Prime Minister Pete Nice.

I start the class by explaining the assignment: 1,700-word minimum, three weeks, I’m willing to look at drafts, answer questions, etc. To me it’s insane fun. A. Because I vividly recall interviewing “famous” (I put this word in quotes because, to young people fame often carries a greater deal of weight and prestige) people early in my career, and the excitement that accompanied it (“Really! Dave Fleming! Yes!”); B. The students often begin intimidated, and end joyful; C. It’s the type of assignment I wish I’d had in college.

Anyhow, yesterday was our draft. I began by reading the bios of the subjects. Then, as always, I place 15 numbers in my baseball cap, and have the students blindly pick. The person who grabs No. 1 gets a minute to make his selection. Then two, three, four … on and on …

Here’s how the 2012 Manhattanville College Journalism Draft went (with analysis) …

1. Erin Cronican, actress—I was initially a tad surprised by this. Erin is a New York City-based acting coach. She’s also appeared in a bunch of TV series and plays. I found her on Twitter, and she was nice enough to agree to participate. My shock actually wore off when I thought more about it. Erin is local, she seems absolutely wonderful and engaging and she has a fascinating bio. I’d equate her to a late entry who, through combines, shot up to the top. Sort of like Mike Mamula, had he panned out.

 

2. David Diamante, Brooklyn Nets PA guy—Maybe a little surprising at No. 2, but the man has a cool job, an amazing voice and America’s best hair.

 

 

 

3. Scott Barnhardt, Book of Mormon actor—Great guy, wonderful career, big player in one of the greatest shows in Broadway history. Had him pegged as a possible No. 1. A steal here at three.

 

 

 

4. Dawn Neufeld, Football Wives star—Dawn might be responsible for the greatest Quaz in history. She was on a short-lived reality TV show, but has an amazing, amazing story to tell. Plus, she’s wicked smart.

 

 

 

5. Nelson Dellis, Two-time defending U.S. Memory champion—Again, easily could have been the top pick. Riveting, quirky story that hasn’t been told too often. Brittany, one of my best students, should do wonders with this one.

 

 

 

6. Marie Te Hapuku, Opera singer—I have a student, Emily, who is an opera singer. She had the sixth pick, and I was hoping Marie fell to her. Luckily, she did. Perfect match.

 

 

 

7. John Wesley Harding, singer—I was wondering how this would go. Harding is absolutely awesome; one of the best singer/songwriters in the world. However, my students grew up in the manufactured bullshit pop era of music. Luckily, I have a student named Eduardo, who has a photo of The Beatles glued inside his wallet. Ideal match.

 

 

8. Amanda Sidman, Today Show producer—Were I 21 and a college student and an aspiring journalist, I would have taken Amanda with the first pick. She’s smart, cool, connected and very engaging. A gem for Ashley.

 

 

 

9. Doug Glanville, ESPN commentator/ex-ballplayer—I don’t have a sports-heavy class. Very few athletes or fans. Otherwise, Glanville goes Top 2. One of the smartest dudes out there. Great pick.

 

 

 

10. Cord McCoy, Rodeo star/Amazing Race competitor—I first met Cord more than a decade ago, when I traveled Oklahoma with him. Wonderful guy, legend in his sport. Were we in Oklahoma, as opposed to New York, he’s LeBron James.

 

 

 

11. D.J. White Owl, rapper—The most recent Quaz, and a wonderful guy. Will talk at will, never gets embarrassed or shy, unparalleled hip-hop knowledge. Perfect profile subject.

 

 

 

12. Nathan Osmond, country singer—Famous family, cool guy, beautiful voice, beyond willing to help students. I have all of zero country music fans in my class. Otherwise, he could have been Anthony Davis.

 

 

 

13. Amy Hastings, Olympic runner—Every so often my class baffles me. Like here. Amy just competed in the Olympic Games. She is, arguably, our nation’s top distance runner. That she slipped to 13 … well, it’s an absolute steal for Alla. An absolute steal.

 

 

14. Adam Schefter, ESPN’s NFL insider—Along with Sidman, the person a 21-year-old Jeff Pearlman would have picked first. However, there were (gasp!) draft-day trades …

 

 

 

Immediately after the draft ended, Nicolle, picking 14th and lacking all interest in professional football, sent Adam Schefter to Brooke, who agreed to part with the No. 4 pick, Dawn Neufeld, plus future considerations. Shortly thereafter, Nathan Osmond was acquired by Steve (the one student who missed class; the league picked for him), with Amy Hastings being sent elsewhere.

The oddest twist? I had one enlistee go undrafted—former Kansas City Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery—only (ho-hum) one of the friggin’ greatest special teams players in NFL history. Nick is now available as a free agent …

In all seriousness, I’d like to thank those who agreed to participate. Just wonderful of you, and proof you haven’t forgotten what it is to be young and up and coming. Big thanks …

  • Dave G

    This is a truly awesome assignment. I wish I had been in this class or had an instructor who did this when I was in school. Wow.

  • Ross Jacobson

    Does that mean Nick Lowery is up for grabs to your readers who are journalists?

  • http://www.erincronican.com Erin Cronican

    This is better than any acting award. I feel like Sally Fields!

    Seriously though, what an honor – I’m thrilled to work with your class. Thank you so much for reaching out. :)

  • http://maorisoprano.com Marie Te Hapuku

    What amazing company I am keeping! Thanks for the invite – this is going to be fun. You are exemplary in every way, Pearlman.

  • Ronner18

    I’ll draft Nick Lowry. However, I’m not in the class, so we can say that his contract was picked up by the indepndent league.

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  • Steve

    What a great project. I wish there were more instructors like you when I was in college. The passion is paramount. This list is wonderful and sad at the same time. Wonderful in that it restores my faith in humanity when people agree to do this sort of thing, and Sad that it doesn’t happen often enough. Incidentally, with no disrespect to ther others on this list, Lowery would not have gotten by me… except for the fact that JWH is on this list – I would have traded future considerations to interview him … but (wait for it) … that was the devil in me.

  • Paul McIsaac

    Wonderful assignment. I wish that I found it four years ago. I’m a history teacher and I’m constantly telling my students that history is not dead. It didn’t happen 100′s of years ago. I’m ‘stealing’ your idea and adapting it for my AP course. Thanks for the inspiration and idea.

    I would’ve drafted D.J. White Owl or Erin Cronican

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

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