CHICAGO (AP) — The show stoppers Thursday night at the NFL draft were two Hall of Famers: Jim Kelly and Dick Butkus.
The legendary former players were on hand to announce the second-round selections for the Bills and Bears, respectively. Kelly’s appearance was spell-binding, and after a lengthy standing ovation, he told the audience that he is cancer free.
“I want to thank everyone all over the world, especially my NFL family, for all of your prayers,” Kelly said before announcing Buffalo’s first pick in this draft, Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby at No. 50 overall. “Last year I was in the hospital not knowing if I would be here this year.”
In June 2013, Kelly had surgery to remove cancerous cells in his upper jaw. The cancer then spread to his sinus and he was in a weakened state following two months of treatments last spring.
But he said Friday, “I feel awesome, I was just was cleared after an MRI two weeks ago. I am cancer free. I am having a great time.”
It’s not easy to outdo Butkus in the Windy City, but Kelly did so, drawing yet another huge cheer.
Earlier, Butkus took the stage. Arguably the most beloved football player in this Bears-crazy town, 50 years after he played, his star still shines as brightly as those of Michael Jordan, Ernie Banks and Bobby Hull — his counterparts in basketball, baseball and hockey.
Butkus presented Da Bears’ choice — and he surely enjoyed it. Butkus even paused for emphasis, saying “I like this,” then announcing nose tackle Eddie Goldman of Florida State.
Three picks after Kelly’s emotional appearance, former Bengals running back Ickey Woods had the fans howling as he performed his Ickey Shuffle, explaining how his mother didn’t want him to do the dance after a touchdown. He then told the hysterical audience that the Bengals took Oregon tackle Jake Fisher.
Former Broncos receiver Rick Upchurch, who is fighting leukemia, thanked “my Denver family … for being in my corner” before announcing Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo at No. 59.
Four players with checkered resumes also went Friday: wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, cornerbacks Jalen Collins and P.J. Williams and linebacker Randy Gregory.
With the pick it got in a deal with the Giants, who moved up seven spots to begin the round by grabbing Alabama All-America safety Landon Collins, the Titans took all of two seconds to select Green-Beckham. Tennessee went quarterback in the opening round with Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, and has added a tall, playmaking option in the 6-foot-5 Green-Beckham.
Of course, that’s if he straightens out his life. He was kicked off the Missouri team after several run-ins with the law, enrolled last year at Oklahoma and could not get NCAA permission to play there in 2014.
“Not having football has had an effect on him,” Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. “He went to Oklahoma and handled himself well and stayed out of trouble …. He was basically a scout team practice player so that was my impression that he understands he probably made some mistakes, and (if) he wanted to continue to play football he had to do the right thing.”
Collins, chosen by Atlanta, was suspended for two games at LSU and confirmed he failed three drug tests.
“What I told the Falcons, what I’ve been telling everybody, that stuff is behind me,” Collins said. “I’ve been making smarter decisions all this past year, trying to become a better person and a better football player and I think it’s been helping me.”
Williams was taken in the third round by New Orleans. He had a DUI charge in Florida dropped recently and also was a suspect in a hit-and-run accident last year.
Gregory, generally considered a surefire first-rounder when the season ended, tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in March. He slipped to No. 60, where Dallas took him.
How much did the drug test affect his status?
“Obviously a lot,” Gregory noted. “Like I said, it is in the past. Me and the Cowboys, we are going to take over this league.”
The league went 45 picks before the first non-FBS player was chosen, Samford safety Jaquiski Tartt. And no quarterback was chosen since Jameis Winston went first to Tampa Bay and Mariota second until Garrett Grayson of Colorado State was taken 75th overall. Is that Drew Brees’ heir?
“I have no problem sitting behind a Hall of Famer like Drew Brees, just like Aaron (Rodgers) did with Brett Favre,” Grayson said. “This really is — and I’m not just saying this — it really is a dream come true for me.”
No such thing for LSU tackle La’el Collins. Once projected to go in the opening round, he has not been selected. Though he is not a suspect, police want to speak to him in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about the killing of a female acquaintance some have identified as an ex-girlfriend.
The final pick of Round 3 was TCU linebacker Paul Dawson to Cincinnati.
AP National Writer Eddie Pells and Sports Writers Jim Litke, Charles Odum, Brett Martel and John Wawrow contributed to this story.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.