The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 4, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Neild waits; Redskins call

MORGANTOWN — In the song “Hung Up” Madonna sang it:

Time goes by so slowly

Time goes by so slowly

Time goes by so slowly

Time goes by so slowly

Time goes by so slowly

Time goes by so slowly

Every little thing that you say or do

I’m hung up

I’m hung up on you

Waiting for your call

Baby night and day

I’m fed up

I’m tired of waiting on you

Chris Neild lived it.

“The whole weekend, especially Saturday … oh, man, it was a long, hectic day,” he said.

The 306-pound West Virginia nose guard was talking about the NFL draft weekend that began Thursday and stretched late into Saturday.

A senior, his college career over and dreams of the NFL dancing though his bald head, Neild didn’t have any problem with Thursday slipping by without hearing his name called or with Friday going by for he knew he would probably be a low draft pick.

But on Saturday he sat there and sat there, and the phone didn’t ring.

“I lost a little bit of hope there at the end,” he admitted.

Who wouldn’t? It seemed everyone but Madonna – and his teammates Noel Devine and Jock Sanders – had been picked.

It was a festive time at his house when Saturday started. Family there, friends.

It was a TV draft party.

“It was rough. All the picks went by in the fourth round, the fifth round, the sixth round … It was a long day,” Neild said.

Some think waiting for the results of a test in the doctor’s office is a long day. Others think 23 hours of labor is a long day.

Try having your future on the line, completely out of your hands. How many bruises had gone into learning to play nose guard from the time you were a little kid to now? How many hours of film watching? How many sprints? How many times had you heard the metallic clink of the iron you were pumping, 200 pounds, 300 pounds, 350 pounds and more?

You sit there at home with everyone anticipating, waiting. At first you joke about not hearing your name. Then everyone realizes it really isn’t all that funny.

“I was watching from 12 to 7. I had my eyes glued to the TV. I had all my family with me. I went upstairs. I wanted to get away from everybody. I wanted to watch it by myself,” Neild said.

What was it Madonna sang in “Hung Up”?

Time goes by so slowly for those who wait

No time to hesitate

Those who run seem to have all the fun

I’m caught up

I don’t know what to do

There were only four or five more picks left in the draft.

“Luckily, I decided I’m going downstairs to spend some time with my family, but I figured I’d wait it out until Washington had their pick because they had called me earlier in the day. They told me they had four draft picks in the seventh round,” Neild said.

So he waited, knowing he belonged in NFL but now wondering. Who knew? Maybe he’d be “Mr. Irrelevant,” the last pick.

“I thought about that,” he said. “But they were probably considering 100 guys for the last few spots. I knew my chances were slim.”

Then it happened.

As Frank Sinatra would have put it, “Ring-a-ding-ding, ring-a-ding-ding, ring-a-ding.”

His phone was ringing. There were only two picks left when he answered call.

It was Mike Shanahan, coach of the Washington Redskins.

Chris Neild need wait no more. Shanahan welcomed him to the Washington Redskins.

There was a party, a celebration. A beer or two was consumed.

And then …

Nothing.

The NFL is in a lockout. There is no rookie camp, just more waiting.

“I’ll stay in shape and wait,” he said.

This is out of his control, just as the draft was. Once again, time will move at a crawl as his professional career is on hold, only this time the delay has meaning and there is nothing irrelevant about it.

Now, as the Rollings Stones would say, time is on his side.

Chris Neild is a Washington Redskin.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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