Sunday, April 25, 2004

A day in the life of Ben

John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW YORK - From this point forward, Ben Roethlisberger will be in the middle of the madness. But Saturday, he didn't know the half of it.

"This places holds about 4,000 people and over 1,000 of them are media, and we're told there are 10,000 people out on the street," said a Madison Square representative who was handing out press credentials. "There's going to be some disappointed people out there."

Roethlisberger was back in "the green room" - waiting for his name to be called -- with his mother, father, sister, agent Steinberg, Miami coach Terry Hoeppner and Hoeppner's wife.

If this was the eye of the storm, it was only because of the quiet.

Out on the street, people were lined up two abreast, at least 300 deep by 11 a.m., a full hour before the beginning of the draft.

Virtually every team in the NFL was represented by team jerseys, including the Bengals. Impromptu games of catch with Nerf footballs broke out on the sidewalks around Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan.

At 11:20 a.m., Roethlisberger and four other collegians -- Robert Gallery, Eli Manning, Roy Williams and Kellen Winslow Jr. -- were introduced to the crowd.

Loud boos greeted Manning, who along with his father, Archie, former QB great with the New Orleans Saints, had manipulated the draft so that the Giants would work out a deal with San Diego, where Eli refused to play. He didn't want to get beat up in a starring rookie role the way his father had a generation ago in New Orleans.

Here is the next four hours of Roethlisberger's NFL Draft Day:

Green-room waiting

• 12:10 p.m.: NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue comes out with five U.S. Marines in full-dress uniform and pays tribute to Pat Tillman, who left behind the NFL for the Army Rangers and was killed in Afghanistan.

• 12:25 p.m.: "Tags" announces that San Diego chooses Eli Manning with the No. 1 pick. Eli emerges from stage right and is greeted by an "Eli Sucks" chant by the fans. Also, "Eli, you're coming to New York!"

• 12:58 p.m.: "Tags" announces that the Giants choose NC State QB Philip Rivers with the No. 4 pick, and soon thereafter the trade with San Diego is announced.

Big Ben's action commences

• 1:57 p.m. Pittsburgh is on the clock. "We see Ben Roethlisberger on the phone," ESPN announces on TV. Sure enough, it's Steelers coach Bill Cowher calling to tell Ben the Steelers are going to choose him with the No. 11 pick.

• 2 p.m.: "Tags" announces that Roethlisberger is indeed headed for Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger emerges and dons a Steelers ballcap and holds up a Steelers jersey.

• 2:01 p.m.: The Steelers fans in the crowd begin to chant, "Ben, Ben, Ben...."

• 2:02 p.m.: Just off stage, Roethlisberger does a press conference for TV reporters and then disappears from the public room, to do some individual TV spots with the Pittsburgh media.

• 2:43 p.m.: Roethlisberger emerges in the players' party room where a press conference with print media is set up. "Call from (Steelers owner) Mr. Rooney," an ESPN media rep announces. Ben takes the call, opens by saying, "Yes, sir, Mr. Rooney..."

• 2:48 p.m.: Roethlisberger does the media conference, then a series of one-on-ones, and by 3:20 p.m., he wraps it up and heads out the door, Steelers jersey still slung over his left shoulder.

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