In Indianapolis, 10 teams met with Stafford. Dolphins quarterbacks coach David Lee drew a Miami pass play for Stafford, complete with terminology, erased it, then asked Stafford to redraw it and explain his route progression. When Stafford finished, Lee told him he'd nailed it. Jaguars quarterbacks coach Mike Shula asked Stafford to draw up a play and teach it to the room of coaches and scouts. Stafford drew up his favorite—Rex Gun 562 Vacation—and drilled the coaches on it.
The 49ers interview, conducted by a team psychologist, struck Stafford as odd. His account: When the psychologist asked about his parents, he explained that they were divorced when he was in high school and that he'd adjusted well; told he sounded as if he might have unfinished business concerning the divorce, Stafford said there certainly was not. "I felt like, I wonder how much I'm being charged per hour for this?" he says. "But I understand. They're going to pay a lot of money in the first round."
As for the Lions, Stafford said that at dinner last Thursday night new coach Jim Schwartz asked him, "If this was a recruiting visit for college, what would you want to ask us?" Stafford replied, "I want to see the city. I'd like to come up there." The next day Stafford snuck up behind Detroit's buttoned-up chief operating officer, Tom Lewand, bear-hugged him and lifted him off the ground. "Come on!" Stafford said, laughing. "Let's go! I'm ready!" In other words, Pick me!
STAFFORD HAD just finished his two-a-day workouts at Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., the day he got the call from his mother asking, "Have you heard this story about Bobby Layne?" Stafford got chills as she recounted the tale. Though he knew nothing of the curse, he knew all about Layne. Before every game for four years at Highland Park High, Stafford had walked past a brass plaque at the entrance to the football stadium bearing Layne's likeness and accomplishments—and another plaque honoring Doak Walker. Teammates on two of those Lions title clubs, the pair had also been schoolboy legends at Highland Park.
In 2005 Stafford led Highland Park to its first state championship in nearly 50 years. Will he get the chance to break the 50-year curse placed on the Lions by another Highland Park quarterback? "Crazy," Stafford said last Friday night of that possibility. He paused, then asked, "You think it's true? You think he really said it?"
Layne died in 1986, and one of his old Detroit teammates, All-Pro linebacker Joe Schmidt, 77, doesn't know if he said it. "Knowing Bobby, I wouldn't be surprised if he did—but it wouldn't have been in a vindictive way," Schmidt said last Saturday. "To this day I still don't know why they traded him. We really missed Bobby."
Then Schmidt asked if Stafford was going to be the Lions' pick. No decision's been made, he was told. "Well, God bless him," Schmidt said. "The past weighs pretty heavy on this team. Tell him good luck."