Draft is a family drama

NEW YORK -- Before the NFL draft got under way Thursday night, all the prospects invited to Radio City Music Hall took the stage for the annual class photo. This year, one of the faces in the picture has never played a down of football.

AP Photo/Ben Liebenberg

Morris Claiborne and his son sit in the greenroom at the NFL draft. Morris Jr. snuck into more than one draft day photo.

Morris Claiborne, an LSU cornerback, was the fourth player set to climb the platform, but his 2-year-old son wasn't ready to let go. When Morris Jr. started to cry, Claiborne picked up his son and took him up with him. If you look closely at the class photo, you can see the little boy peeking out from the back row, his face next to Robert Griffin III.

Claiborne said after he digested the fact that the Cowboys -- with whom he'd had absolutely no contact before the draft -- had traded up to grab him with the sixth pick, and the dream of his first contract became real, his next thought was of his son.

"He's not going to want for anything," Claiborne said.

While NFL games can be serious affairs, with credentials issued only to news outlets and little girls in party dresses confined to the stands and suites, the draft is all about family. Parents take the stage with their newly minted millionaires, and children, including nieces and nephews, are towed along at hours well beyond their bedtimes. There was even a pint-sized reporter in the press room asking precociously pertinent questions.

Griffin, chosen second overall by the Redskins, brought his father, Robert Griffin Jr., up to the podium with him for his news conference.

"He wanted his sister and my granddaughter up there [on stage] with him," said the quarterback's dad. "The core of our family is what's important for us."

Once the NFL started inviting players to the draft, the event ceased to be just about numbers and began to focus on the emotion of a young player reaching a long-sought goal. Now there are new suits and gowns, and bear hugs with commissioner Roger Goodell.

Each year in the first round, the human drama is on display. And this year, that might be best encapsulated in the small face of Morris Claiborne Jr., peeking out from the back row.

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