Stafford savoring the moment
By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
NEW YORK – The place was called Hannah’s Psychic Readings and behind the storefront window on 43rd Street, Hannah was willing, for a fee, to dispense all she knew.
The idea of a psychic sparked the interest of Matthew Stafford as he passed by while riding in the back seat of a NFL pickup truck, heading to his midtown hotel to begin draft weekend.
It was 12:45 p.m. Thursday and technically the Georgia quarterback didn’t have any money to his name. His cell could ring at any moment though with word from his agent that he’d just agreed to be the No. 1 pick of the Detroit Lions. That contract would be worth around $70 million.
So a man about to make a fortune was intrigued by a fortune teller.
“I’ve never been in one of those places. How does it work?” Stafford asked.
He understood the general concept – you go in and have someone tell you what your prospects are. He laughed at the thought.
“I should go in dressed as a bum, ‘Is there any hope for me?’ ” he said. “If she said no, I’d be like, ‘Busted!’ ”
In the charmed life of Matthew Stafford, Thursday was one of the most charmed days. Even he didn’t know what exactly to make of it all, only that he should try to soak it all in.
After all, it’s not every day you arrive in New York about to be the top pick in the NFL draft.
“No one else gets to do this stuff,” he said. “I sit back and tell myself, you’re lucky as hell to be doing what you’re doing.”
The draft process wasn’t even too bad. Lots of travel, lots of eyes on him and lots of interview questions from NFL teams, although not anything too wild.
“I heard people got asked, ‘Do you wear women’s clothing?’ ” Stafford said.
Women’s clothing? What did they answer?
“No, I guess,” Stafford said and started laughing. “I guess they were trying to rattle you. I didn’t get asked anything super strange.”
He laughed some more at the absurdity of it all. He then asked the driver for a restaurant recommendation, declaring he was looking for Italian and “I like going to hole-in-the-walls.”
The driver named a place and Stafford looked pleased. Then he heard it might have mob connections and started laughing again.
“They’ll try to get me to throw games … on second thought.”
This is how Stafford spent the day, cracking one-liners and acting like an excitable college kid about to get a dream job, a fat check and a future he always envisioned. The kid’s got a hell of an arm and a sense of humor that compares.
Thursday morning he flew from Atlanta to LaGuardia. He sat in coach (seat 41A) yet signed autographs for the pilots. He had no entourage, carried his own bags and other than being eager to get his future set, he promised to make the most of the weekend.
He had family arriving Thursday night and by Friday a bunch of friends from high school in Texas and college in Georgia were coming in. That included all his college roommates.
“They got the [NFL] rate at the Westin and they’re all crashing in one room,” Stafford laughed. “Could be six of them in there.”
His schedule is pretty tight with NFL-related duties, and he’ll have to jet out to the franchise that selects him Saturday afternoon, but even if his time with them is limited, he trusts his boys will have a good time.
After all, one of his former Georgia teammates, Benjamin Boyd, is living in New York and working as a model. As such, he knows a lot of female models.
“They’ll be able to take care of themselves,” he smiled.
As for Detroit, that’s the goal. He isn’t worrying about the money – “I’ll believe it when I see it on paper. There’s nothing I can do about it. Tell me where to sign.”
He covets the opportunity to lead the Lions from the Armageddon of 0-16. It feels like destiny ever since he found out about the supposed “Curse of Bobby Layne” – upon being traded from Detroit in 1958, Layne, the team’s star quarterback, declared the team “would not win for 50 years.”
Fifty-one years and just one playoff victory later here’s Stafford, who coincidentally attended the same high school as Layne in Highland Park, Texas.
He knows some Lions fans want Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and can only shrug.
“Obviously, you want the fans to be on your side,” he said. “I think you have to be yourself and play and get them on your side.
“I want them to know that I’m a down-to-earth guy, and I’ll do what it takes, no matter what that is. If that’s handing the rock off to Kevin Smith 30 times a game and letting the defense [control the game], then I’ll do that. If it’s chuck it around a little bit, I’ll do that, too. I’m one of those guys that just wants to win, I don’t care how. It doesn’t have to be pretty.”
He went back to his visit to Detroit, where he hit it off with the new coaching staff, saying he “loved” head coach Jim Schwartz.
“He and I have a similar sense of humor,” Stafford said. “On my visit there, I forgot my razor. [In the interview] he was like, ‘What part of making millions of dollars made you think this morning, ‘I just won’t shave when I get up?’
“I said, ‘Coach, come on, I’m trying to make you guys think I’m a little bit older and maybe I can do this.’
“He started dying laughing. He’s just a cool dude. He’ll bust your chops a little bit but he doesn’t mind taking a little. Anyway, it wasn’t like full beard. I (just) wasn’t completely shaven.”
He sat in the back seat, rubbed his still boyish face and smiled.
“It’s not like I can grow a sweet beard anyway. I’m still struggling in that aspect.”
With the world at his finger tips, during the weekend of his life, it’s good to see there’s something Matthew Stafford needs to work on.
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