My NFL Draft Experience: Dave Zastudil’s Call From a Childhood Hero
For NFL fans around the globe, the NFL Draft has become a year-round spectacle. Media coverage has expanded to putting out mock drafts during the current NFL season, websites have popped up allowing fans to try and guess who will go where and NFL Draft pundits now spend months and months building up and tearing down young men looking to take the first step in their professional careers.
For the players, the NFL Draft is the start of something special. All of the hard work and training they have been putting in since the first time they strapped on a helmet in pee-wee football is finally paying off. Their dream of playing football at the NFL level is about to come true, they just need to be drafted first.
There is so much that goes on for players leading up to the NFL Draft that fans do not know about. Anxiety about where they are going to get drafted, happiness and celebration with family members and for some, even disappointment when their name is not called when the draft comes to a close.
Because of this, the VIKTRE Career Network wanted to give fans a behind the scenes look at what goes through the minds of NFL players in a series called “My NFL Draft Experience.” We have lined up a number of former NFL players, ranging from former first-round draft picks to undrafted players, and will be interviewing them leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft.
In our second interview of the series, we interviewed recently retired punter, Dave Zastudil.
A native of Bay Village, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland), Zastudil’s journey from playing for the Bobcats of Ohio University to being drafted by the one team he knew would draw the most criticism from friends and family in Cleveland is certainly one worth reading.
Zastudil was drafted No. 112 overall in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens out of Ohio University. Zastudil would enjoy a 12-year career in the NFL. He spent four years with the team that drafted him (Baltimore), four years with his hometown team (the Browns) and finally four years with the Arizona Cardinals before leaving the game following the 2014 season at the age of 36.
Since leaving the NFL, Zastudil has made a successful transition to a career after football. We previously interviewed him about his transition. We appreciate Zastudil taking the time to share his experience in the 2002 NFL Draft with us.
What was the most memorable question you were asked by an NFL team during the pre-draft process? How did that compare to any questions you may have been asked when transitioning to a career after football?
I was asked a question at the combine by a long-time special teams coach whom at the time was coaching for the Houston Texans about Punters. He looked at me and the first question he asked me was to name all the Punters on the current rosters of all 32 NFL teams. He was curious to see if I studied my competition pre-draft and if I was a student of the game, and more importantly my position. When transferring to my insurance career … it was important to understand who the other competitive agencies were in the Cleveland/Akron area and to find a niche that you were passionate about.
What was the NFL Draft experience like for you? Did you attend the draft, have a party with friends and family or do something else?
I was at my house at Ohio University with friends and family. At the time I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if I was lucky enough to get drafted I wanted to share it with the people that supported me along the way.
What round did you think you were going to be drafted? If you went later than you thought, how did you deal with that?
The NFL spends a lot of time and effort evaluating talent … so I knew from many months of preparation and conversations with teams that there was a good shot to get drafted between rounds 3-6. As a Punter that was pretty high, however, there were a few teams in the 2002 draft that were looking to upgrade the position so I was prepared at any moment to get a phone call. The 112th pick in the 4th round was my selection and Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens called me. I was very happy to get selected, and even more excited that one of my childhood heroes was on the other line of the phone.
Once you were drafted, did you set any goals for yourself in year one? Did you target a specific person on the depth chart to try and beat out for the job?
My first goal in year one was to make the team. At the time, we were the youngest team in the history of the NFL so I was slotted as the starting Punter as soon as I was drafted. I really enjoyed my time in Baltimore …the Ravens are a high class organization and they continue to be to this day.
What did you learn from your NFL Draft experience that helped you when transitioning to a career after football?
You learn that no matter what job you have or are beginning … it is very important to be prepared. Preparation in my opinion is a very important key to success both mentally and physically.
Do you have any other memories or moments from your NFL Draft Experience you would like to share with the fans?
When I was drafted by Baltimore and I got a call from Ozzie Newsome I can remember turning to my family and saying that “ I am a RAVEN!” Everyone was very excited of course but as time went by many were joking that out of all teams why the Ravens?! It was only about 6 years prior that the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore so many fans were still bitter about that. To make a long story short, many fans in Baltimore were upset that the young team spent a 4th rounder on a Punter. And when I arrived in Baltimore they handed me number 19 … now, no one has worn 19 since Johnny Unitas. So I went in to Ed Carroll, our equipment manager at the time, and said, “Ed you have to help me … I’m a 4th round punter that fans are upset about and with #19 to go with it … if I shank a punt I may be run out of town!” Ed laughed and he gave me #15 and we both laughed.