RGIII and Barry Sanders Highlight Draft Night Premiere

Less than 48 hours before one of the biggest nights of their young lives, 15 of the hottest college prospects helped kick off NFL Draft Week in style Tuesday evening during the 2012 EA SPORTS Draft Night Premiere event at the Lavo nightclub in New York City.

As the latest mix of hip-hop bounced throughout the dimly-lit, jam packed room of one of Manhattan’s hottest hotspots, the first round hopefuls spent the evening fielding questions from the likes of radio personality Dan Patrick of the Dan Patrick Show and NBC Sports, and representatives from Sirius Radio and Fox among others, taking a slew of pics for various websites and publications, and trading friendly jabs with their peers as the night went on.

As they made their way through media row, some reflected on their celebrated collegiate careers, while others excitedly – and perhaps a bit anxiously – discussed the many possibilities of their futures in the NFL. A handful took the field with their school one last time as they played a demo copy of NCAA Football 13.

In the middle of it all were wide receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma St., quarterback Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M, defensive end Quinton Coples from North Carolina, Stanford Tight End Coby Fleener, and Alabama prospects Mark Barron, safety, and running back Trent Richardson.

Surrounded by a number of players who are projected to be drafted in the Top 10, the biggest guest of honor was undoubtedly NCAA Football 13 cover athlete Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Baylor University who is all but assured to be selected No. 2 overall by the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

For Griffin, however, the night wasn’t really about the thought of hearing his name being called out by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it was more about enjoying his last days as a Baylor Bear, and the excitement of appearing on the game’s cover.

But Griffin wasn’t the only Heisman winner in attendance. Former Oklahoma State All-American running back and 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders was also present, fresh off his NCAA Football 13 My Heisman voting campaign victory.

His reward for beating out the likes of Herschel Walker, Marcus Allen, and five other former Heisman winners in a three-week, nationwide vote by the fans: an appearance on the game’s cover with RGIII.

“The cover vote was a blast from the moment it all started,” said Sanders. “I had to reach down a bit and channel my political instincts, and it gave me an opportunity to connect with the fans. And to be able to come out on top, and beat out guys that I truly admire, players like Herschel, Marcus, and Flutie, was amazing.

Sanders continued: “To have won the Heisman, and then to be able to connect with the most recent winner in this fashion nearly 25 years later, is a thrill. It’s an honor to join Griffin on the cover.”

While Sanders says it’s a privilege for him to appear on the cover with Griffin, RGIII respectfully disagrees.

“Since it was announced that Barry had won the cover vote, people have been coming up and telling me how cool it is that’s he’s on the cover with me,” Griffin said. “I don’t think that’s the case, really. It’s the other way around where I’m sharing the cover with him. He’s the legend here, so it’s truly an honor to be on the cover with one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”

Regardless of who’s sharing it with whom, the cover campaign gave both players an opportunity to spend some time with one another, and it’s time that will be cherished by Griffin.

“I’ve gotten to talk to Barry a little, and find out what it takes to be successful on and off the field,” Griffin said. “He told me, ‘Don’t try to be as good as him, try to be better.’ And that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to work hard every day with that advice in mind.”

As for the likes of Richardson, Tannehill, and the others in attendance, their baptism into the NFL is just a few hours away. Until now, they all proved they have what it takes to be successful in college –  whether they’re able to match the level of Sanders as a pro remains to be seen.

Either way, it’s a safe bet that every player will cherish his experience as a collegiate athlete no matter what his NFL career has in store for him.

“No matter what, Alabama will always be in my heart,” said the two-time National Champion Richardson. “Thanks to Coach Nick Saban, my teammates, my family, and everybody at Alabama, I’m here today because of their teachings, love, and support. Roll Tide for life.”

Better yet, college football for life.