Sanchez happy the wild journey continues


Posted by ESPN's Shelley Smith
IRVINE, Calif. -- Mark Sanchez pulled up in front of his Orange County apartment at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. His eyes were droopy, and he was wearing the same Lakers T-shirt he had worn to the Lakers-Jazz game four days earlier.

"No sleep last night whatsoever," he said. "Out with Matthew Stafford."

He had been in New York making some appearances for EA Sports and Sprint, and because Stafford was in town for the draft, the two found some time just after Stafford learned he was the first overall pick by the Detroit Lions.

"He was really excited," Sanchez said. "And I am really happy for him."

And with that, Sanchez exited, showered, found some clean clothes in his mess of an apartment and drove the seven miles to his agent's office in Irvine.

There he was met by his immediate family and a couple of high school teammates. The draft began, and Sanchez sat next to his 92-year-old grandmother and his mother, who had brought a box of Kleenex, convinced she would cry.

The cameras were pointed on him, and after the first three picks came and went (including Stafford to Detroit), Sanchez seemed uncomfortable and got up and went into a side office, "to talk about my trip with my brother," he would say later. But many were wondering if the pressure was getting to him and if he was worried about being caught as he slipped like Aaron Rodgers or Brady Quinn in past drafts.

When the Cleveland Browns were on the clock, Sanchez burst from the office, furiously tugging his jacket on, smiling like crazy and talking on the phone with Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, who had just made a trade with the Browns to draft him.

"Oh my God, yes," Sanchez said, throwing a hand in the air. "Thank you so much. You guys are the best. Thank you so much. This is a dream come true."

It was announced on the big screen, and his family cheered and popped champagne. Over at the Los Angeles Coliseum, fans watching the USC spring game saw on the Jumbotron. Pete Carroll tweeted, "Congrats, Mark! We're cheering for you here in the Coli."

Someone brought out Jets caps -- they had caps from five of the teams most likely to select him -- and Sanchez promptly placed one on his grandmother's head. Then he took it back and admitted he might sleep with it on. He might have to since it's likely he's headed back to New York on a late flight tonight.

Shelley Smith is ESPN's bureau reporter based in Los Angeles