Kings for a day

For the sixth year, the Mag takes future NFL greats to New York City

Originally Published: April 19, 2013
By Morty Ain | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's April 29 NFL Draft issue. Subscribe today!

FOR THE sixth straight year, we threw an NYC draft party for future pros who won't get to shake hands with the commish.


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | Styling by John Moore | (From left): Cars: 2013 Porsche Boxster S and 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S; Stills' tuxedo, shirt and tie: Turnbull & Asser; socks: Calvin Klein; umbrella: Ermenegildo Zegna. Motta's jacket, shirt and pants: John Varvatos; socks: Calvin Klein; shoes: Crockett & Jones; watch: Breitling. Lester's tuxedo and shirt: Hugo Boss; bow tie: Prada. Mauti's tuxedo and bow tie: Turnbull & Asser; shirt: Brioni; shoes: A. Testoni; watch: Guess. Thomas' jacket: Brioni; shirt and umbrella: Ermenegildo Zegna; tie: Turnbull & Asser; socks: Calvin Klein; shoes: Johnston & Murphy; watch: Breitling.

The Kings (from left): Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills, Notre Dame SS Zeke Motta, Alabama SS Robert Lester, Penn State LB Michael Mauti and Stanford LB Chase Thomas.


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | PRODUCTION BY 2D PHOTO PRODUCTIONS; LOCATION: THE STANDARD HOTEL, HIGH LINE; GROOMING BY JODIE BOLAND/CK ONE COLOR COSMETICS; PROP STYLING BY TARA MARIN/BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI | (From left): Motta's trench coat: Salvatore Ferragamo; shirt: Ermenegildo Zegna; pants: Paul Stuart; shoes: Fratelli Rossetti; sunglasses: Ray-Ban; umbrella: Ermenegildo Zegna. Thomas' trench coat: Paul Stuart; shirt: Tommy Hilfiger; pants: John Varvatos; belt: Freywille; shoes: Canali; sunglasses: vintage Ray-Ban

"Try to cross me if you want, but you're going to find yourself lying on the ground."
-- Zeke Motta


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | (from left): Thomas' suit: Louis Vuitton; tie: Tommy Hilfiger; pocket square: Turnbull & Asser; shoes: Johnston & Murphy; watch: Breitling. Stills' suit, tie and pocket square: Paul Stuart; shoes: Crockett & Jones; watch: Breitling

"I could have played corner, but I just like scoring the touchdowns. I grew up watching T.O. and Chad."
-- Kenny Stills


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | (from left): Thomas' suit, shirt and pocket square: Turnbull & Asser; tie: Ermenegildo Zegna; shoes: A. Testoni; watch: Breitling. Mauti's suit: John Varvatos; shirt: Tommy Hilfiger; tie: Ermenegildo Zegna; pocket square: Paul Stuart; shoes: Crockett & Jones. Lester's jacket and tie: Tommy Hilfiger; shirt: Hugo Boss; pocket square: Ermenegildo Zegna; pants: J. Crew; belt: RRL by Ralph Lauren; shoes: Johnston & Murphy; sunglasses: Ray-Ban

"My athleticism has always been a question mark, but I get to the ball. And I don't miss tackles."
-- Chase Thomas


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | Lester's suit jacket and vest: Paul Stuart; pants: Gucci; tie: Tom Ford; sunglasses: Oliver Peoples; headphones: Beats by Dre.

"Practice is the hardest part of playing for Alabama. You get to the games and you're like, 'Thank God.'"
-- Robert Lester


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | Mauti's suit: John Varvatos; tie and shirt: Brioni.

"They say I run a 4.8, but I don't run no 4.8. Every coach who's ever timed me has me at a 4.50 or 4.55. White boy can run."
-- Michael Mauti


Ben Watts for ESPN The Magazine | (From left): Mauti's trench coat and tie: Ermenegildo Zegna; suit: Turnbull & Asser; shoes: Johnston & Murphy. Stills' jacket and shirt: Bottega Veneta; pocket square: Turnbull & Asser; hat: JJ Hat Center; sunglasses: Ray-Ban; pants: Naked & Famous Denim at Barneys New York; boots: Johnston & Murphy. Motta's suit: Burberry London; shirt and pocket square: Brioni; watch: Raymond Weil; socks: Paul Stuart; shoes: Fratelli Rossetti; umbrella: Paul Stuart. Lester's coat: Brioni; shirt: Ermenegildo Zegna; pants: Turnbull & Asser; scarf: Canali; belt: Paul Smith; sunglasses: Persol; shoes: Fratelli Rossetti. Thomas' suit: Tommy Hilfiger; shirt and pocket square: Paul Stuart; tie: Tommy Hilfiger; shoes: Crockett & Jones; sunglasses: vintage Ray-Ban

Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State
Good fit for: Giants
Round 7, pick 225

"I came to Penn State a boy and left a man," says Mauti, a 243-pound linebacker who rose above injuries, the death of Joe Paterno and the Jerry Sandusky sanctions that resulted in a four-year bowl ban. "Everyone was asking, 'Are you going to transfer?' " Mauti says. "Within an hour, we decided we weren't going anywhere." That didn't stop rivals from recruiting. "We had eight Illinois coaches on campus trying to poach us. That backfired." Mauti got his revenge with two picks (one for 99 yards) in a 35-7 drubbing of the Fighting Illini on Sept. 29. He had been projected as high as a second-round pick until November, when he suffered his third ACL tear. So he sent handwritten notes to every NFL GM: "I wanted them to know that I've torn my ACL and come back before. I've proven I can do it." In other words, he's not going anywhere.

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Good fit for: Rams
Round 3, pick 78

"People see my hair and tattoos and expect an a - - hole," Stills says. For his draft prep, the six-foot, 194-pound receiver dumped the dye job but not the attitude that helped him become an Oklahoma star. In three seasons, he caught 204 passes, scored 24 TDs and dropped a couple of YouTube-worthy blocks on Texas defensive backs in a 63-21 blowout on Oct. 13. But a 2011 DUI and a 2012 Twitter pic of Stills in a bridesmaid dress had NFL execs wondering. "Teams straight up asked me if I was gay because of that picture." (He says no, it was just a joke.) It's not the first time he has been questioned: Stills carries around the letter he received this year from the NFL suggesting he stay in school. Instead, he ran the 40 in 4.38 at the combine and showed stellar body control. Your move, NFL.

Zeke Motta, SS, Notre Dame
Good fit for: Jets
Round 7, pick 215

Off the field, Motta calls himself a modern-day hippie, dispensing wisdom to friends. Amid the Manti Te'o storm, he dropped this Dr. Seuss line on his Notre Dame teammate: "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." With his helmet on, the 6'2", 213-pound safety calls himself a crazy monster looking to hit anything that moves. In 2012 he was named defensive player of the year for the Fighting Irish squad that played for the national championship. Unfortunately, at the combine Motta finished last among safeties in the 40 and the bench press. But by his pro day six weeks later, he had lopped 0.12 off his dash and added five reps to his bench. Motta just needs one NFL team to look past the numbers and see the whole picture. Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.

Robert Lester, SS, Alabama
Good fit for: Eagles
Round 5, pick 136

In Thomas' redshirt season, Stanford went 57. Two years later, the Cardinal were Orange Bowl champs. Then in 2011, as an All-America outside linebacker with five forced fumbles and 8.5 sacks, Thomas could have joined Andrew Luck in the NFL draft. But the 6'3", 244-pounder returned as a senior with a goal in mind: the Rose Bowl. The result? Stanford's first Pac-12 title since 1999 and its first Rose Bowl victory since '72. "The days of moral victories are over at Stanford," he says. Thomas called the coverages because of his ability to spot formations. But NFL scouts wonder whether he can hang with quicker route runners in man coverage. "I've been working on my drops, staying low and getting more flexible," he says. Now he has an NFL goal in mind: "I want to hit Andrew Luck because I was never allowed to in practice."

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
Good fit for: Chiefs
Round 5, pick 134

The former Alabama safety needs both hands to wear all of his SEC and national title rings. But the bling comes with a catch. "People think that if I played well it's because of the players around me," says Lester, who had 14 picks in three seasons. "Plus, Coach Saban brainwashed us to think that every time we step on the field we're going to win. It kills the joy of winning. But now I'm a guy who doesn't know how to lose, and I'm taking that mindset to the NFL." Scouts, though, question the 6'1", 220-pounder's cover skills, and his 4.66 40 at the combine didn't excite them either. But Lester's strength is his instinct for the game, highly developed even though he didn't strap on the pads until 11th grade. "I know what's going to happen on the field before it happens," he says. If only that were true of draft day.

Go behind the scenes at the Kings' photoshoot in New York City here.

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