A day apart, St. Rita High School graduates Pat O’Connor and Kenny Golladay picked up the phone and heard the words they had both dreamed about for years.
“Are you ready to be a Detroit Lion?”
Bob Quinn, general manager of the Detriot Lions, was on the other end, informing the duo they had been drafted as part of the NFL Draft on April 27-29.
Golladay was drafted with the 32nd pick in the third round (96th overall), and O’Connor was drafted with the 32nd pick in the seventh round (250th overall). Both are 2012 graduates of St. Rita.
“It’s crazy; that’s the best way to describe it,” O’Connor said. “It was a big anxiety day. Hearing Bob Quinn say that, so many emotions went through my body. I was excited to get the opportunity to present my skills and work my way toward making the team.”
As for Golladay getting the call on April 28 in the third round, he has never been so happy to see a phone number he didn’t recognize.
“My phone rings, and it’s a number I didn’t have saved,” Golladay said. “I didn’t look up where the number was coming from. I picked it up, and Bob Quinn asked if I’m ready to be a Lion. It was almost a relief to hear. The work doesn’t stop here, though. I have a lot more to prove.”
O’Connor and Golladay left their marks on their respective college programs. O’Connor, a Mt. Greenwood resident, helped Eastern Michigan to its first bowl since 1987.
The 6-foot-3 defensive end had 20 career sacks for the Eagles, including 8.5 his senior season.
“The coaches did a great job preparing us and putting us in a spot to have a successful year,” O’Connor said. “I thank our coaches for everything they did for me. It was a great situation with a winning season that helped propel me into the NFL.”
Eastern Michigan finished 1-11 in 2015-16 before finishing 7-6 this past fall and playing in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
Watching with friends and family, O’Connor wasn’t sure if he would get drafted, but he kept an open mind as he watched pick after pick be announced. Once he received the call, he gave himself a 24-hour window to enjoy it.
“Now it’s time to do the real work,” O’Connor said. “It’s time to work with the team and put yourself in a situation where you can improve your life. I feel blessed for the opportunity.”
After spending two seasons at North Dakota, Golladay transferred to Northern Illinois. In two years with the Huskies, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver finished with 160 catches, 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He is the first player in school history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Golladay was on many draft prospects lists with many experts projecting him to go anywhere between the third and the fifth rounds.
“I knew I could go in that range, but you never know what can happen,” Golladay said. “I could have gone undrafted. It’s a blessing that I went in the third.”
Golladay said he kept in touch throughout the draft process with O’Connor with the St. Rita duo working out in Fort Lauderdale. Having played football since he was 7, Golladay said the draft announcement was a great experience.
“I watched it with my family,” Golladay said. “I can finally breathe a little. I put all the work in. It all worked out, but it is all getting started. There is a lot more to come.”
For St. Rita Coach Todd Kuska, seeing one of his former players being drafted was a dream come true. But two players getting drafted by the same team in the same draft was surreal.
“Most kids who play football have that dream of playing professionally,” Kuska said. “I think I was just as excited as they were, maybe more excited. I’m so proud of the guys. It shows kids that if you put in the hard work, anything can happen. Pat and Kenny did it the right way.”