Live From NFL Draft: This Year’s Picks Reveal Defining Football Moments

LA Mag was one of the few outlets in Vegas who spoke with first round draft picks minutes before their fate was revealed.
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Las Vegas made a grand show out of this year’s NFL Draft Weekend. The festivities kicked off with a pink carpet on a floating stage in the middle of the Bellagio fountain to honor the college prospects hopeful to be drafted into the league. 

As the 32 NFL teams continued to make their picks throughout the weekend, the party continued when four-time Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski invaded the city with the return of his own personal music festival, Gronk Beach. Featuring Grammy Award Winning Pop Duo, The Chainsmokers, Gronk Beach brought the athlete’s eccentric personality to life at Encore Beach Club combining a high end pool party environment with Gronkowski’s favorite musical artists, food and drinks. 

Los Angeles magazine was one of the few outlets who got time to speak with the majority of the first round picks minutes before their fate was revealed. Quarterback Matt Corral was picked by the Carolina Panthers in the third round, and hyped up his Los Angeles hometown for giving him the “swagger” that got him to the league. 

“Being from the west coast, specifically north LA, it brought a little swagger to me,’ Corral told LA Mag. “I had to go to the South and I had to play in the SEC, and that’s something I wanted to do, but a lot of the kids down there thought the west was soft, and I had to show them that it wasn’t.” 

Keep reading to learn each prospect’s defining moment where they knew they could make a career out of the sport. 

Charles Cross

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Charles Cross poses onstage after being selected ninth by the Seattle Seahawks during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Round 1 – Pick 9 – Seattle Seahawks

“I would say it was in my junior year. I’m from Mississippi and a lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to play in the Division 1 level so once I started doing that, I just took it and ran with it. I love the game, the process, the season starting, working out, all of it. I just took it one day at a time, trying to implement myself on and off the field and this isn’t the final product, but it’s one of them.” 

Nakobe Dean

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Nakobe Dean attends the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/Getty Images)

Round 3 – Pick 19 Philadelphia Eagles 

“For me, it was when I was in high school, probably in ninth grade when I got my first offer. I thought, ‘If I can make it in college, I can make it in the NFL, and I want to be one of the greats.’ So that’s the plan. I’m going to continue to work to get better every day.” 

Ikem Ekwonu

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Ikem Ekwonu attends the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/Getty Images)

Round 1 – Pick 6 – Carolina Panthers  

“Man it was actually like probably kind of recent, honestly. I had a hard conversation with my offensive coordinator and he straightened me out and he kind of made me realize my potential and made me work towards that goal so I credit him for bringing that out of me.” 

Kyler Gordon

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 29: Kyler Gordon smiles onstage after being selected as the 39th overall pick by the Chicago Bears during round two of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 29, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Round 2 – Pick 7 – Chicago Bears

“In high school when I got my first offer, everything started really clicking like, ‘I could really go here and do that. Let me put my all into it’ and that’s what I did and that’s why I’m here today.” 

Zion Johnson

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Zion Johnson poses onstage after being selected 17th by the Los Angeles Chargers during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Round 1 – Pick 17 – Los Angeles Chargers 

“I would say for me, it was after I transferred to Boston College. It was a sink or swim thing for me. I was finally on scholarship, but a lot of people didn’t think I’d get on the field and play and it was a thing where I had to beat the odds. I feel like after going through that, it really solidified who I am today. That’s something I take pride in, working hard and overcoming adversity.” 

Jermaine Johnson

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Jermaine Johnson II poses onstage after being selected 26th by the New York Jets during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Round 1 – Pick 26 – New York Jets 

“A lot of hard word, blood, sweat and tears went into this objective right here so I’m just going to enjoy it the best I can and I have my beautiful parents here and all of my little brothers and my other siblings so I’m just enjoying it. It’s one of those things that’s coming full circle. It still hasn’t hit yet, but I’m sure it will once I get drafted. I’ve had a crazy journey and every step of my journey when I had an opposition and getting over that is when I was like, ‘Okay, I could do this. I’m built for it because of what I’ve gone through and what I’ve overcome.’” 

George Karlaftis

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: George Karlaftis poses onstage after being selected 30th by the Kansas City Chiefs during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Round 1 – Pick 13 – Kansas City Chiefs 

“Probably my first game ever, my sophomore year of high school was pretty instrumental to me. I had two sacs the first half and I was like, ‘Alright, I think I can do this some day.’” 

Evan Neal

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Evan Neal poses onstage after being selected seventh by the New York Giants during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Round 1 – Pick 7 – New York Giants 

“When I went to the IMG Academy and I started going up against that top competition, that’s when I knew I had a legitimate shot making it to the NFL as long as I put the work in.” 

Malik Willis

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: Malik Willis attends the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/Getty Images)

Round 3 – Pick 22 – Tennessee Titans

“Probably my first game in college when I accidentally played and we played against West Kentucky, I was like, ‘Okay, I had a first game,’ I hadn’t played prior so if I had a good first game, I could just build on this.”