It just may have been the surprise of the draft — not the NFL draft, but the Havelock Rams For Life draft.
Each year, Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant splits his team for spring and summer workouts, with the focus on weight room workouts, attendance, improvement and effort. However, this year he decided to let his four team captains — Travis Sabdo, Micheal Bowman, Anthony Fisher and Martez Morris — hold a draft to select their own players, a draft that included announcements of the selected players, highlight videos, press conference interviews and photographs of the “team owner” with the player and team jersey.
Sabdo, the starting quarterback with the first overall pick, passed on all-star linebacker Keion Joyner and touchdown-scorer Matt Boykin and went instead with rising junior linebacker Trey Owens.
“Trey’s a strong kid and a fast kid,” Sabdo said, explaining the selection of the player who made the game-saving tackle in last year’s state championship game. “I was going into the draft thinking if I could draft a little bit of speed and a little bit of strength, if I could get those two qualities and get some kids to work hard, we would be pretty competitive this spring and summer.”
The four captains had a lot of incentive to draft a hard-working team. The coaches award teams points based on their workouts, and the team with the most points at the end of the summer receives a pizza party, special T-shirt and a couple of days off from conditioning during the year.
“That’s the goal in the spring and in the summer is to work hard and get better,” Sabdo said. “We compete hard against one another, so when we go out on Friday night, we can compete hard against somebody else.”
Sabdo was able to draft Joyner in the second round.
“I thought somebody else was going to snag him from me,” Sabdo said. “I had a debate whether to pick Keion or Trey with the first pick. I decided to go with Trey, but when Keion was around in the second round, I knew I had to take him.”
Another surprise may have been that Bowman, a wide receiver, didn’t draft younger brother and receiver Kyran Bowman with his first pick. Instead, he went with the speedy Boykin. However, he managed to get Kyran in the second round.
“I knew I was going to get my brother,” said Micheal Bowman, who jokingly pretended to be making phone calls before he made his selections. “I had to go with Boykin in the first round.”
Bryant played the role of commissioner for the draft, announcing each selection. As the top picks were selected, assistant coach Caleb King showed highlight videos of the players on a large screen.
The players, many dressed in ties and suits to play the role of college players selected in the NFL draft, received a jersey and posed for pictures. They even had the chance to answer a question as part of a mock press conference.
“They weren’t drafted for their public speaking,” Bryant joked after the press conference.
He said he decided to do a draft as a way to reward the players and give them an hour of fun for all the hard work they put in.
“It was fun. I enjoyed it, and I think the kids had fun,” Bryant said. “The main reason we do little things like this is for motivation. It kind of lets the kids know about their commitment level, and now every year they will strive to try to get in the first four rounds so they can be one of the first 16 players selected so they can be called individually on stage. I think this will be something that will grow every year for us.”
The draft served as a precursor for spring workouts for the Rams, who open their quest for a fourth straight state championship against Washington on Aug. 22 at Havelock High.