Friday, May 9, 2014
The 24 hours of Eric Ebron
By Michael Rothstein
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Eric Ebron had been a Detroit Lion for less than 24 hours when he stood up at the podium, looked out at the media, looked down at the recorders taping his every word Friday afternoon and was still in amazement.
On Wednesday afternoon, he was a man waiting for a team and still in a relationship. By Thursday night, he was officially in the National Football League and a newly engaged man. So there are wind storms, whirlwinds and then things that can completely spin your head.
"This all seems fake right now," Ebron said at his introductory press conference. "Like, I'm not even here. Ever since I woke up."
Eric Ebron became engaged and a top-10 draft pick all in one day.
Somewhat surprisingly to everyone but the Detroit Lions, he was in Michigan on Friday afternoon as the second tight end the team has spent a first-round pick on in the past six seasons. And it all started in New York City the day before.
The pick was criticized in the immediate aftermath of the selection, but Ebron paid little attention to that. He was too happy to care. Too happy to talk about anything negative on what was the best personal and professional day of his life Thursday.
See, Ebron not only became a NFL player on Thursday night, he picked up a fiancée, too, finalizing something he thought about for months and then planned for weeks. That began Thursday morning, when Ebron convinced his then-girlfriend, Brittany Rountree, that a visit to the Empire State Building was part of his schedule of events on draft day.
Rountree thought something was different, but in the elevator on the way up near the top of the building, Ebron calmed her down. Told her to "go with the flow.” To relax. This was how he made her feel comfortable, what turned a friendship that began at freshman orientation at North Carolina to a drama class taken together to a friendship and then a relationship.
Now, two years later, they were headed to an uncertain future together in an elevator.
"I was still trying to figure out what was going on,” Rountree said Friday. "Like why are we here.”
She'd find out. They reached the top and Ebron dropped to one knee, proposing to his girlfriend. She cried a little bit. It would be the only thing that could top what would come later. For Ebron, there is some symmetry to this. He lived for a while in the shadows of the building he proposed in, in the city that his life would change in.
Ebron was born in northern New Jersey and spent the first few years of his life in Newark, New Jersey, where his father works for the school district. So it fit, somewhat, that his father, Eric Ebron Sr., would get stuck in traffic Thursday heading from Jersey to Manhattan. That is, after all, all too typical of traveling into New York City.
Ebron Sr., like his son, would head to Radio City Music Hall, where the name Eric Ebron would be read by former Lions running back Barry Sanders with the No. 10 pick. When Ebron heard his name and saw Sanders, he didn't want to let go.
"Wooooo,” Ebron said Friday. "When he walked up there, I was like, whoever gets this pick, man, look. I didn't want to start hugging the man but I had to a little bit.
"We was on television. I didn't want nobody else to miss their pick so I had to let him go.”
He did and after Ebron went through his required post-pick duties and interviews, he and his family went to Tao, not far from Radio City Music Hall, for a late dinner and celebration with his family. Then he slept for about 90 minutes before waking up, jumping on a plane with his family and heading to his new home in Detroit.
That was the last 24 hours of Ebron -- a 24 hours that completely shifted his life.
"We're finally here. We are finally here,” Ebron's mother, Gina Jackson, said. "I knew this moment would come. He just stayed hungry and stayed humble and do what he had to do.