University of Missouri

An Internet star, a Yahtzee game and a big drop: Inside Drew Lock’s NFL Draft week

As he went into Thursday’s opening night of the NFL Draft, Drew Lock tried to treat the biggest week of his life as if it were a Missouri football night game in the middle of the fall.

The draft’s 23 invitees go through a nonstop cycle of events from Tuesday through Thursday, from participating in youth clinics to planting trees.

To stay in a routine, Lock brought his in-season roommate, Jack Lowary, and a game of Yahtzee. During the season, the two played games the night before games as a way to keep their brains active. It’s a tip Lock got from former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

“It’s like a bowl week without the actual game,” Lowary told The Star.

But, like many of the big games Lock played in at MU, the draft did not go the way many expected.

After being projected as a top-20 pick for most of the draft process, Lock shockingly fell out of the first round Thursday night. The Denver Broncos selected Lock, who grew up a Chiefs fan in Lee’s Summit, with the No. 42 overall pick on Friday.

Disappointed by Thursday night’s results, Lock elected not to return to the green room for the start of the second round. Instead, he hung out at super agent Tom Condon’s penthouse office off Broadway, the main tourist drag here, where over 150,000 fans have stood to watch the draft.

“This adds a little chip to the shoulder, bigger than the one that’s already on there,” Lock said on a teleconference after the Broncos drafted him. “I’d say it’s almost a full Pringle size — the king-size Pringles right now — that’s how big the chip on my shoulder is. But it’s good.

“If I for some reason I needed any extra motivation, I definitely got it.”

Hours before going undrafted on Thursday night, Lock sat in the back lobby of the J.W. Marriott hotel, two blocks west of Bridgestone Arena. He was surrounded by some of the 70 friends and family members that traveled to Nashville for his big day. While they reveled in excitement for Lock inside the hotel bar, he looked exhausted.

The highlight of his week, Lock said, was getting recognized by Internet star Nick Colletti at dinner one night. Lock had participated in every event asked of invitees and struggled to recall details of his schedule that day. He admitted he felt nervous.

“You’re told as a football player, ‘control what you can control.’ I literally can’t control anything,” he said. “Trying to adapt that mindset, but it’s pretty hard.”

He didn’t want to speculate much about his future. He preferred talking about his game of Yahtzee.

Lock’s mother, Laura, said the entire draft event reminded her of a wedding because of the guest lists and arrangements the family had to make until the last minute.

“We just don’t want to be left at the altar,” she said Thursday.

Nine hours later, Lock found himself in his hotel room with Lowary and his family by his side. The first 32 picks went without him. In a surprise move, the New York Giants opted for Duke’s Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick, while Washington drafted Maryland native Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State at No. 15. The Broncos, Chargers and Patriots — all teams with aging starters and no heir apparent at quarterback — passed on Lock.

It wasn’t the first time Lock had seen a situation go awry so quickly.

When Lock committed to Missouri at his father’s restaurant in April 2014, he was seen as a godsend, the rare four-star recruit who committed to a home state school where his father played. MU two years earlier had missed out on Ezekiel Elliott, a running back with the same credentials as Lock. Lock and Terry Beckner, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, headlined one of Gary Pinkel’s best recruiting classes. It was expected to be a program-changing recruiting class.

But Beckner battled injuries, and Lock was thrown into the starting quarterback spot weeks into his freshman year after Maty Mauk was suspended from the team. Lock struggled and was quickly written off as overrated by fans.

“There was a pretty high bar,” said Lock’s father, Andy. “Issues he had were magnified because Drew Lock wasn’t supposed to have issues. Where the bar is set has a lot to do with it. That was a big part of that. I think as it relates to the next level, the bar will be set high again. It’s almost the same scenario.”

Lock remade himself as an upperclassman, leading the nation in touchdown passes as a junior and seeing all of his key statistics except for touchdowns improve as a senior while finally playing in a pro-style offense.

NFL teams still found reasons to overlook him. Draft analysts heard from teams that Lock’s 9-inch hands, small for a quarterback, posed a problem, as did the way he gripped and released the ball. Others pointed to his career completion rate of 56.9%, even though it increased each year of college.

In the draft’s opening two rounds, the Broncos, linked to Lock since general manager John Elway watched him torch Arkansas in November, passed on Lock three times within the first 41 picks, giving him more anxiety about a repeat of the first round.

After Denver took Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner with the No. 41 pick, Lock feared the Broncos had moved on from him. He wondered how much farther he would fall. He began to look ahead in the draft order, searching for potential options.

Then the Broncos pulled off a last-minute trade with the Cincinnati Bengals to move up to No. 42.

“Oh wow,” Lock said. “Here we go.”

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock enteres the stage after the Denver Broncos selected Lock during the second round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 26, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Mark Humphrey AP

Twenty miles away in Franklin, Tennessee, one of Lock’s favorite receivers watched the draft on TV. Mizzou’s Emanuel Hall, an NFL hopeful himself, was hosting a draft party.

“This has to be Drew,” he said when the Broncos traded for the 42nd pick.

Lock’s phone began to ring. The call came from a Denver area code. The 48-hour wait was over.

Lock celebrated with a fist pump in Condon’s conference room, while Hall and former teammate Nate Brown cheered from Hall’s living room couch. The two quickly texted their former quarterback to congratulate him.

While Lock’s wait was over, the pressures that come with his new gig immediately set in. A starter his whole life, Lock said Wednesday it will be interesting to transition into a backup role behind veteran Joe Flacco.

Lock, who has leaned on Lowary since 2016, said he’s already picked his roommate’s brain on quarterback fundamentals. Now Lock has to learn how to become a good second-stringer.

“You really just learn as much as you can from the starter,” Lowary said. “He knows that. Being in that guy’s corner, giving him positive energy.”

Whenever Flacco moves on from Denver, Lock faces a more difficult task, as he will try and become one of the rare second-round quarterbacks to stick in the league. Since 2011, only Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick have found consistent success as quarterbacks taken in the second round. Players such as Geno Smith, DeShone Kizer, Christian Hackenberg and Brock Osweiler quickly fizzled out as starters. Second-round picks Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr are starters but still relatively unaccomplished.

Missouri coach Barry Odom isn’t worried about Lock’s pro prospects. He looks at his former quarterback’s current situation as a blessing, as Lock will have a Super Bowl winner for a mentor.

“He’ll adjust to whatever his role is, but his competitive fire will not allow him to just be a backup,” Odom told The Star. “He’ll try and get better however he can.”

After getting the call from Elway, Lock elected to make the three-block commute back to the draft site, to shake commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand and go through the ensuing media carwash.

He came to Nashville for a reason, and the drop in the draft couldn’t deter him from the full draft experience. After all, the draft was just the first of many challenges he’ll face in the NFL.

“This is why I wanted to come,” Lock said. “I wanted to experience this. It’s a whirlwind.”

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.