When brand-new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell read Darrelle Revis's name, less than two hours into the 2007 NFL Draft, he knew he was going to get a reaction. In fact, he tipped his hand as he arrived at the podium with the card for pick #14, prefacing his announcement with an almost wary, "Okay, Jets fans…"
As it turned out, the notoriously raucous Jet contingent at the annual Radio City Music Hall draft proceedings was mostly approving of the pick; had they known how good Revis would prove to be, they probably would have torn the roof off the place. Still, all in all, we were talking about a couple dozen screaming fans, at most.
The second time Darrelle Revis was "drafted," so to speak, roughly 15,000 fans of his new team gathered together to voice their approval in one giant roar. That scene took place at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, less than an hour before Goodell was due to take the stage and begin the 2013 NFL Draft.
Revis, of course, was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in exchange for the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft and a conditional 2014 selection. That took the Buccaneers out of the first-round game on Thursday night but paradoxically made the team's 2013 Official Draft Party Presented by Miller Lite – presumably designed to celebrate the team's newest draftee in real time – even more of a can't-miss affair for Tampa Bay fans.
And, for Revis, it was like being drafted all over again, with another delirious fan base looking ahead to future success.
"Yeah, it kind of feels like that, all the excitement and everything going on," said Revis on Thursday night, shortly after giving a shout-out to Buccaneer fans everywhere from midfield at Raymond James Stadium. "I'm excited and I'm sure my teammates are and the organization as well. It's good for all of us to come out here to the Draft Party, share a little bit in the excitement and have fun."
It was good for everyone, in fact, including that Draft Party record crowd of 15,000 and a handful of Revis's most prominent new teammates: defensive end Adrian Clayborn, linebacker Lavonte David, quarterback Josh Freeman, safety Dashon Goldson, running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The Bucs' annual Draft Party, always an optimistic, upbeat and heavily attended event, went to another level on Thursday night.
For one of the newest Bucs, All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, that made it a very appropriate welcome.
"Oh man, it was awesome," said Goldson. I liked the energy. It was my first time being in this stadium, and that first experience was pretty good. I'm excited about it."
The party was so big this year, in fact, that it spilled out of its usual spot in the Club Lounge and out into the stadium bowl itself. Shortly after 7:00 p.m., the star Buccaneer players ran out onto the field amid the sort of light-and-sound show usually reserved for game-day introductions. The crowd welcomed all seven players enthusiastically but saved their loudest cheers – not to mention a "Revis! Revis!" chant – for their newest hero.
"This was awesome," said Revis. "This is for the fans. We wanted to get our fans excited for this year. We're a young team. We're growing. The additions of me and Dashon is great. We're veterans and we've made plays in this league. We're here to add to this team."
Revis, Goldson, McCoy and Martin answered questions from on-field emcee T.J. Rives of the Buccaneers Radio Network. Both new Bucs felt as if they were getting a very good preview of what a home game at Raymond James Stadium would be like. "I'm ready to go play right now!" enthused Goldson, to the crowd's delight.
Added Revis: "I can't wait until Week One. A shout out to the Buccaneer Nation; this is going to be an exciting year!"
In fact, many elements commonly enjoyed on game day were present on Thursday night, including video entertainment, cannon blasts from the pirate ship, the giant Buccaneer flag that accompanies player intros and fans enjoying the many food and beverage options the stadium has to offer…at a discount, of course, as is always the case at the Official Draft Party. And, as both the Buccaneers and their fans obviously believe will be the case on Sundays at Raymond James Stadium this fall, there was also plenty to cheer about.
"This never gets old," said Freeman of feeding off the crowd's energy. "You get so much time off [after the season] that you don't really have any interaction with the fans like this. Our fans are the best. You feel like you're out there about to play a game."