One week after being selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, former Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell will put on his pads for the first time as a professional when his new team convenes for its rookie minicamp Saturday through Monday. Before taking in his first weekend as an NFL player, Cockrell caught up with The Chronicle's Daniel Carp to discuss his draft day experience and future in Buffalo.
TC: Walk me through what it was like to get the call and learn that the Bills were taking you in the fourth round.
RC: I was just waking up. The draft was on ESPN, I was getting ready to go [watch my sisters compete at the North Carolina high school track and field championships] and decided I would watch the first couple picks. I saw that Buffalo was going to come up. I told my cousin, "I'm going to wait until Buffalo comes up and see what they do and then I'll go meet you out back." A couple minutes after I said that my phone started ringing. The Buffalo area code popped up and I was like, "Yep, there they go. Right there."
I picked up the phone and it was the GM, Mr. Doug Whaley. He asked me how I was doing and I said, "I'm good. I'm doing a lot better now that you called me." He asked me how I felt about being a Buffalo Bill because they were going to take me with their next pick. I told him I would love to be up there. Then they went through the process of getting my information and they had me on a conference call with some of the media folks, so I was probably on the call for 15 or 20 minutes.
TC: When you finally hung up the phone, that first minute after the whirlwind was over and you got to be with your family—what was that like?
RC: It was great. My mom was crying. People were jumping around and taking picture and recording. It was a great moment for me, and to be there with my family it was a lot of fun.
TC: When we spoke before the draft you had said you thought you would go late on Friday or early Saturday. When you didn't get the call at the end of round three on Friday, were you worried that you might slip through later in the draft or were you confident that the call was coming soon?
RC: When I didn't get the call Friday I was a little disappointed. I just continued to hope for the best and tried to sleep it off, and I didn't have to wait very long on Saturday, so that helped calm my nerves a lot. I was hoping it was going to work out.
TC: Buffalo was one of two NFL teams that had brought you in for a private visit, but you had said you took it with a grain of salt because every team goes about their pre-draft process differently. I guess we know now that the visit must have gone well?
RC: I thought I made a pretty good connection with those guys up there, especially with [defensive backs coach Donnie] Henderson, and it turns out that I did. Buffalo reminded me a lot of Durham and I think the team in some ways reminds me a lot of Duke—a team that has had some success and some history going back to Jim Kelly and going to four straight Super Bowls but is trying to fight its way back into the playoffs.
TC: You're the earliest Duke draft pick since 1999. Have you had the chance to let that sink in yet?
RC: I've had some time to think about it. Obviously I'm excited for Duke because its another chance for Duke football to increase its brand nationwide. Duke football for a long time was not respected, and going to bowl game and winning games are obviously the first step to getting respect in attention. Having guys in the NFL is another way to get that respect as well. Having Sean Renfree really started it off last year. I got to follow him up by moving up as well. I think next year it's going to be even better. There's going to be more guys drafted and they'll be drafted earlier.
TC: I'm sure you've probably gotten this question a lot, but do you like snow?
RC: Snow is fine. It's not like I'm one of those guys from way down south who has never seen snow.
TC: Have you ever seen seven feet of snow?
RC: No. I've never seen seven feet of snow.
TC: My guess is that by the end of your first couple years in Buffalo that answer is going to change.
RC: Probably so. The thing about that is now that you don't have to play in seven feet of snow. The field will be clear and at the end of the day football is football whether it's cold or hot.