It's 6:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 29—the day of the 1986 NFL draft—and Irene (Mama Ram) Offerdahl is up and around in the ranch house on Lincoln Drive in Sun Prairie, Wis. She's wearing a flannel nightgown and her favorite slippers, the humongous gray ones that look like elephant feet. She's trying to make her way to the kitchen, but there's a rather large person sound asleep outside her bedroom door, four more mounds in the living room and a lumpy sleeping bag in the front hall.
Mrs. Offerdahl pops two huge roasting pans into the oven; the spareribs will be served later, after her son John, a senior at Western Michigan and one of the best inside linebackers in college football, is drafted by one or another NFL team.
In the den, six more bodies are buried side by side in bedspreads and blankets, stretching lengthwise from one end of the room to the other. "These are the sleepers in the draft," Mama Ram whispers, "and the snorers."
She looks at her watch. It's 6:55. "Good morning, all," she says. "It's Wednesday. You've slept through the draft."
Mama Ram, so called because of an outrageous hairdo she sported some years ago, and daughter Sue pounce on either side of John. He throws off his covers and begins rolling over his college and high school buddies, who have come to Sun Prairie to be with Offerdahl on his big day.
"Steamroller!" his mother yells. She has seen this game many times, beginning when John was a kid—a much smaller kid. He's now 21 years old and 6'3", 232 pounds. "I'll time you as you roll back over them."
It's 7 a.m. "Should I turn on the TV?" Mama Ram asks, while doing just that.
"How long does the draft last?" wonders Juli Pepich, one of John's college friends.
"Forty-six hours," jokes Larry Winston, a former defensive back at Western Michigan. "Or, forever—whichever comes first."
Each year, several thousand college football players are considered for the NFL draft but only 330 or so are chosen. And fewer than a quarter of the draftees actually make the teams that select them.