BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL Draft will still take place as scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic, though the league has ditched its initial plans for a three-day bonanza in Las Vegas for a fully virtual edition of the event. The decision to still hold the draft has been met with some criticism from the outside, but players eager to hear their named called sometime between April 23-25 are happy there won’t be any delay.
Boston College star running back A.J. Dillon is among that group. The now-former Eagle is projected to be a mid-round pick this year, and his anticipation has been growing as the draft quickly approaches.
“I don’t think I can wait any longer,” Dillon told WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid. “I’m so excited. Hearing my name get called has been a dream of mine for a long time.”
Getting to his dream has been a lot different than Dillon could have ever expected. He turned heads at the Combine, running a 4.53 40-yard dash and besting all other running backs with a 131-inch broad jump. Any concerns about his 247-pound frame quickly diminished.
“Those two show my straight-line speed and explosiveness with jumps,” Dillon said confidently. “A lot of the questions around me were about my size and if I was too big. But I was at 247 and 7.8 percent body fat. That’s the real me, no water weight or anything like that, as lean as I could be.”
But a lot has changed since prospective draftees showed off their skills in Indianapolis. The country has essentially shut down due to coronavirus, which has greatly affected the pre-draft process. Pro Days were canceled around the country, and Top 30 meetings followed suit. Instead, Dillon and hundreds of other NFL hopefuls have been meeting with teams through video conferencing.
“It’s been interesting, but everyone has adapted well,” said Dillon. “I’ve done Zoom meetings, meetings over Skype and FaceTime — every team has their own thing. Everyone is trying to work around it and do the best they can.”
The process may be different than years past, but Dillon is just happy that his dream is getting close to becoming a reality. He’s been able to meet with a handful of NFL coaches and let them know that he’s much more than a bruising running back who can run over would-be tacklers.
“It’s awesome to tell my story. Whatever team decides to draft me, God willing that happens, they’re going to get a guy who is constantly looking to get better,” he said. “I’m a leader, somebody who is a dependable guy on the field, in the locker room and off the field. An all-purpose back that is going to get the job done day in and day out.”
Dillon spent the last three years doing just that for Boston College. He was named to the All-ACC First-Team Offense after rushing for a conference-best 1,685 yards, averaging a robust 5.3 yards per carry. He scored 15 times in his 12 games as a junior, and racked up at least 150 rushing yards in seven of those contests. He leaves Boston College as the school’s leading rusher with 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Now he’s hoping to do even bigger things for whichever team drafts him in a couple of weeks.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, so it’s kind of surreal. I don’t think it will really kick in until after the draft and, hopefully, I’m able to make a team,” he said. “But it’s an awesome feeling that all that hard work is coming to light.”