The Niners, who lost running jack Ricky Watters in the off-season, dearly wanted Metcalf in their lineup. But he came too dear. The best San Francisco could offer was two low first-round draft choices. The Falcons offered the 10th pick overall.
"We loved him," says 49er personnel boss Dwight Clark, "but we couldn't compete." Clark adds that in addition to his quickness, Metcalf "is bigger than people think."
He is bigger than someone in the Falcons' equipment room thought. For the photo shoot with Milburn, the Falcons shipped a uniform featuring pants with a 26-inch waist. "How small do they think I am?" Metcalf asked.
"That's just the 'little man' thing," said Milburn sympathetically. "We're lucky they didn't send us Toys 'R' Us shoulder pads!"
Of the pair, Metcalf lives larger. After the shoot he tried to sell Milburn, whose favorite store is The Gap, on the benefits of having a fashion consultant. Upon wandering that morning into a Banana Republic, Milburn made a beeline for the sale rack and, after torturous deliberation, bought a $19.99 pair of denim shorts.
Metcalf mentioned the time last spring when he bought a first-class plane ticket to New York for a Knick game. In contrast, Milburn angrily recalled his room-service dinner from the night before: "I ordered potlatch soup and a glass of lemonade. With the service charge," he said, outraged, "it came to 10 dollars."
Finally, their picture taken, Metcalf headed back to the football camp he runs during the summer; Milburn, to the airport. They shook hands and promised to keep an eye out for one another. Then Metcalf disappeared behind the smoked glass of his custom Mercedes—a sweet ride of which Milburn said, as it disappeared into traffic, "Man! That's a $100,000 car."
"You have to understand," Milburn said during the drive to the airport, "he's been making over a million a year for the last few years. I'm still a year or two from making my first million." It is slightly surprising that behind the mask, Milburn smolders not only with the ambition to catch Metcalf but also with the confidence that he will. He longs to amass Metcalfian statistics and compensation; he yearns for the day when the only thing separating them is that meaningless fraction of an inch.