For NFL fans, the annual NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall is a major holiday that isn’t to be missed. For one life-long Falcons fan, the 2013 Draft will be one he will never forget. Season ticket holder Cliff Ross, 39, was one of more than 10,000 entries into the Atlanta Falcons Draft Sweepstakes contest, sponsored by Equifax. The avid Falcons fan was selected to fly to New York to announce the franchise’s two fourth-round selections and attend VIP draft events. According to Tameka Rish, the team’s manager of corporate partnerships, the NFL started a program last year allowing each team to send one representative to announce the franchise’s pick in the fourth round of the draft.
Equifax, a proud corporate partner of the Atlanta Falcons, was excited to present the draft sweepstakes contest for the second consecutive year to the team’s fans. “This contest was a great way to build on the excitement and momentum from this past winning season,” said Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions division at Equifax. Ross was beyond thrilled when he received a phone call two weeks before the draft notifying him he’d won the contest. “It was a great experience, no doubt,” said Ross. “They always say, ‘do people really win those contests?’ Well, it happens because I won.”
Ross, who said he has never won any contests in the past, immediately called his wife, Veronica, upon learning of his selection to say they were on their way to New York to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event. “I normally watch the draft at home, but we were both excited to go (to New York),” said Ross. “It was a no-brainer we were going.”
Ross and his wife attended the first round of the draft in prime time on Thursday, April 25, and returned Friday for several special events taking place in the middle of the draft. A movie entitled “Draft Day” was being filmed on stage and in the green room, starring several current NFL players as well as familiar actors such as Kevin Costner and Terry Crews. Ross witnessed some of the filming, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reading out fake names for the movie. “After Mr. Goodell finished his part, he made his way down through the crowd and I walked over to him,” said Ross. “I met him and had my picture taken with him.”
Dressed in a suit with Falcons colors, Ross made a joke about borrowing the suit from Falcons owner Arthur Blank, which made Goodell chuckle. Ross also had the opportunity to sit in on Merril Hoge’s “Chalk Talk” and hear how the ESPN analyst breaks down draft prospects. He also saw the team tables and spoke with NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who gave glowing praise of the team’s first round draft pick, Desmond Trufant.
Ross’ big day was Saturday, April 27, when he would take the stage to announce a pair of Falcons draft picks and possibly appear on television. Ross donned a sharp three-piece suit and bought a Falcons hat at the NFL store to complete the ensemble. “I felt as if I was going to represent the Falcons, and wanted to look my best,” said Ross.
After meeting with an NFL organizer at Radio City Music Hall around 11 a.m., Ross and his wife waited in reserved seating until pick No.124, at which time he walked to the Falcons’ draft table. “They were getting information over the headset and told me the name might be a hard one to pronounce,” said Ross. “They gave me ‘Malliciah Goodman’ and I practiced it a few times.”
When the Falcons’ pick at No. 127 arrived, Ross stood up and flawlessly announced, “Malliciah Goodman, Defensive End, Clemson,” into the microphone. Team officials asked if he wanted to announce pick No. 133 and he gladly accepted. Leading up to the team’s second pick of the round, Ross said he could tell that Falcons officials were eagerly discussing the team’s potential picks on a conference call over the headset. Ross was once again alerted that the name could be difficult, but Ross wasn’t worried. “When they said the name was going to be Levine Toilolo,I recognized it from watching college football,” admitted Ross. “I got up and said the name with no problem.”
Ross then departed Radio City Music Hall and returned to Atlanta with a scrapbook full of memories. “It was an awesome three days,” gushed Ross. “I still can’t believe it happened to me, but I am so thankful for everything.”