"Do you remember when you were a little critter and stood on our back porch and said you were quitting football to go out for the volleyball team?" she asked.
"John is so worried about the draft changing his relationship with his friends," said Brent Yaeggi, a high school football teammate. "He thinks the people he grew up with won't act the same toward him, that money will change the way we feel. He told me, I don't want to lose you guys.'
"To me, he'll always be the guy I went to the Janesville Gyro with on Sunday nights. We'd sit around for hours, trying to get up the nerve to ask girls to dance. Three hours later it was time to go home, and we hadn't left our seats. We'd been too busy concocting rejection speeches. John's favorite was, 'Oh, now that I've seen you in the light, I don't want to dance with you anyway.' His batting average had to be .128."
On Monday night, Mama Ram welcomed John home by cooking up some German potato salad and sauerkraut. Offerdahl's father, Arnie, an accountant, fired up the bratwurst on the grill. Dinner for 30, nothing much out of the ordinary for Mrs. Offerdahl, who had whipped everyone in a chugging contest at a pizza and beer bash she threw in Kalamazoo after John's final college game.
After dessert Monday night there were the Offerdahl Games—three hours of charades. Two minutes to get three words. John guessed the first word in the contest—uvula, a part of the palate—and then later, he acted out the word viscosity. He pretended to be pouring something—slowly. Molasses and syrup were the guesses. Then he made a V with his arms, and the engineers in the crowd caught on.
Finally, about 3 a.m., after winning four of six hands in poker—and $9.55—Offerdahl had to give in and go to sleep. On the floor.
On Tuesday morning, wrapped in blankets, munching on chocolate chip cookies and catching naps during the first round, the assembled throng began tracking the draft on ESPN. John barely said a word, except when it was the Bills' or the Vikings' turn to draft. "I'd rather be picked in the fourth round," he moaned. He perked up midway through the second round, where he had figured he would be picked. "I'm betting the Eagles," he said. The phone didn't ring. He started to get worried. "I'll die if I go in the third round," he said. "I'll feel like I've let everybody down."
Finally, at 12:47—more than five hours and several false alarms later—a call came. He sprang to the kitchen. It seemed like good news. Tension drained from his face immediately. He turned toward the crowd waiting in the den and smiled. "This is the funnest part of the whole weekend," he said. "I'm in control for the first time, and now I'm going to make you suffer. I'm not going to say anything."
"Oh, please, John," his mother begged.
"This isn't fair," his father said.