"Nope," he said, beaming. "Take the phone off the hook, and we'll watch the announcement together."
"Want to act it out—like charades?" Mama Ram suggested, scooting around the room, doing imitations of cowboys, giants, redskins—and, yes, even rams. But in the next 17 minutes, his name wasn't called. Something had to be up. "Maybe we should put the phone back on the hook," he said.
Seven minutes later, it rang again. "You bet," he said to the caller. "I love it." He hung up. "Now I'm confused," he said. "I don't know what's going on now. They just said to keep watching ESPN."
At 1:18 p.m. there was the official announcement: Miami had selected John Offerdahl near the end of the second round, the Dolphins' first pick of the draft, the 52nd pick overall. Fists shot into the air. Bodies crashed down on top of John. Mama Ram jumped on his back and began to cry. His father hugged him. Sisters Sue and Sarah smothered him with kisses. His pals shook his hand.
Later Offerdahl explained the mix-up. " San Francisco called first and said they were drafting me," Offerdahl said. "But when I heard that the 49ers had traded their pick to Washington, I figured we should put the phone back on the hook. [Taking it off] was a dumb move. I could've wound up a free agent."
A short time later, after the four-car caravan of friends pulled out, bound for Michigan, Chicago and other points, Offerdahl and his mother were alone in the living room. "A present?" he said. He opened the bag and found two brass ram's-head bookends. On the back was inscribed. KEEP YOUR HEAD ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND. KEEP YOUR HEAD AND YOUR HEART. AND BE GENTLE. LOVE, MOM RAM, '86.
The questions are endless. "How good is the level of competition going to be? How personal are the coaches? Will Don Shula care about me?"
Offerdahl's mind is racing. Out of the plane window, Miami comes into view. Golf courses. Palm trees. Offerdahl is flying in for his Dolphin debut at rookie camp, two days after the draft. During the next week, he would be further indoctrinated at a veterans' minicamp.
"I'm totally clueless," he says. "I don't know what to expect. And I don't know what they expect from me. If they give me a playbook, I want to memorize it before I go back home."
It's sunny out, and it looks hot. "I'm going to move here in June, a month before training camp, to get used to the heat," he says. "I'll have to buy a car.... I've never owned one.... I've got to apply for charge cards.... I'll probably have to invest in a condo to keep from getting killed at tax time.... Maybe my family can spend Christmas here.... Does Shula yell a lot at his players?...What are the other teams in Miami's division?...Will my body hold up?...Gosh, I'm more nervous now than I was on draft day."