In just 16 days, the Washington Commanders will be on the clock for the 2022 NFL Draft. Not long after that, commissioner Roger Goodell will announce which player the team will select with the 11th overall pick.
It will be an important moment for the Commanders and head coach Ron Rivera, who has emphasized the importance of the third offseason of his tenure. It will be another chance for him to secure a player who he believes will be able to put on the field immediately, as he has done with Chase Young and Jamin Davis.
That's only half of what makes the night so exciting, though. Rivera will change a young player's life forever with a phone call, creating a moment they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
"You listen to their reaction, you hear their reactions and in some cases, you can see them because they do have a camera at their home," Rivera said on 97.1 WASH-FM during his and team president Jason Wright's radio tour announcing the team's partnership with iHeartRadio. "It's kind of neat to see. It really is."
Rivera already has a few memorable draft moments under his belt as the Commanders' head coach, starting with the 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young. Like the rest of his draft class during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Young was with his family in Maryland because of that year's version of the draft being completely virtual.
When it was time for Washington to make its selection, Rivera called Young, but rather than tell Young himself, he had the defensive end hand the phone to his father so he could deliver the news to his son. Then, despite the rain that started to pour that night, Young went outside to see dozens of Washington fans cheering his selection.
Last year, Rivera made 10 such calls to Washington's rookie class, the first of which being Davis, who Washington took with the 19th overall pick. Davis was also with his family, and in a video released showing the linebacker's reaction, Davis was punching the air and smiling as Rivera told him that he'll "fit exactly where we need you to be."
That wasn't the end of the conversation, though.
"Did you tell your parents?" Rivera asked. "I wanna hear your parents yell and scream now. Tell'em! Tell'em!"
As soon as Davis told his family "We're going to Washington," everyone in the room clapped and congratulated him. That's when Rivera added one more comment: "That's awesome, isn't it?"
All of the calls have their own unique feel, but the one he made to offensive tackle Sam Cosmi stood out the most. Cosmi, who Washington selected with the 51st pick, asked, "Are you serious?" as he broke down in tears with his family surrounding him on the couch. The room erupted in cheers once he told them the news.
"Just the excitement he had, the reaction he had with his family and friends and his fiance, that was a really cool moment for us," Rivera said.
Rivera will be making six more calls over the course of Days 1, 2 and 3 in this year's draft, and as for who will be on the receiving end of those conversations, he and his staff are hard working on that very subject. The Commanders have been hosting players for their 30 allotted visits, per NFL rules, and their scouts are working with the personnel department to narrow down the list of prospects.
"Starting next Monday, the coaches will now start getting into that meeting room, and we'll start discussing what each group of players look like for us as we start talking about all the rounds and all the players that will be available for us to choose from."
Rivera isn't going to tip his hand on who he's leaning towards drafting this year, but it's guaranteed to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for that player.