Surrounded by family and friends in the VIP room of a suburban Washington, D.C., bowling alley for the opening night of the NFL draft, Dwayne Haskins was ready for the phone call that would launch his professional career.
Watching the feed of the draft, Haskins settled into his seat, put on his headphones (Nipsey Hussle was on his playlist) and waited. He spent most of the next two hours in relative silence as he listened to his music and checked his phone.
When his phone finally rang, Haskins alerted his family and his girlfriend, Savhana Cousin, before holding it up for everyone in the room to see.
Most couldn’t read what the phone said, but the elation on Haskins’ face led to the room exploding with applause. It was so loud he was unable to communicate with the person on the other end.
“I can’t hear,” Haskins said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. When the noise subsided a bit, Haskins was beaming. He was then handed a hat bearing the logo of the football team that was about to make his NFL dreams come true.
As commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Washington football team selected Haskins with the 15th pick of the first round, the former Ohio State standout slipped on the hat in a selection that made his family very happy: He was going to begin his NFL career close to home.
Haskins, who played high school football in Potomac, Maryland, later expressed how thrilled he was to get a chance to play professional football just over a half-hour’s drive from home.
“Right down the street, that’s crazy,” Haskins said. “HTTR [Hail to the Redskins]. I’m excited. I get to be close to home.”
Yet his competitive nature left Haskins disappointed that he was the third quarterback selected behind Heisman winner Kyler Murray and Duke’s Daniel Jones.
Haskins’ reaction as the New York Giants selected Jones before him was priceless.
Dwayne Haskins has been picked at No. 15 by the Washington Redskins!
… This was his reaction after the Giants picked Daniel Jones at No. 6 pic.twitter.com/KS9SVG4mQE
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) April 26, 2019
And equally memorable was his “the league done messed up” response to falling to the No. 15 spot in the draft.
"The league done messed up."
Dwayne Haskins letting Washington Redskins fans know he's ready to get work pic.twitter.com/ym6tjIFBvr
— ESPN (@espn) April 26, 2019
But the advantages of playing close to home?
His parents, Tamara and Dwayne Haskins Sr., and sister, Tamia, are ecstatic that Haskins won’t be far from family and home-cooked meals.
“This is special,” Dwayne Haskins Sr. said. “This is an incredible moment, and just reinforces the good that can happen if you have someone in your corner that’s constantly reinforcing your core values.”
And his extended family and friends — many of whom packed the Bowlmor bowling alley in Gaithersburg, Maryland, for the draft party — will now have opportunities to see Haskins play on a regular basis.
“This is just so exciting to see my best friend drafted,” said Derrick Tangelo, a former teammate at the Bullis School who just finished playing his second year at Duke as a defensive tackle. “It’s kind of like at the end of the movie when the superhero saves the girl. You wait for that moment for so long, and it finally arrives. That’s how it feels with this moment of being drafted finally here.”
As a projected first-round pick, Haskins could have joined his fellow college football stars in Nashville, Tennessee, for the draft. In fact, he was in Nashville earlier this week and met with young men from a local Boys & Girls Club who were presented new suits by Michael Strahan, the Pro Football Hall of Famer turned media star.
Such an incredible event yesterday with the young men from the Boys and Girls Club of Nashville. Each of them left with a suit from COLLECTION by Michael Strahan and a lifetime memory thanks to @KingHenry_2, @JoshAllen41_, @nbsmallerbear, and @dh_simba7! #RaiseYourGame pic.twitter.com/PWUPiAdaaR
— M by Michael Strahan (@MbyMStrahan) April 24, 2019
But instead of staying in Nashville and getting suited up to shake the hand of commissioner Roger Goodell, Haskins opted for a night of “Faith, Family and Friends” at the bowling alley.
“Being in Nashville would have been a great experience,” Haskins said. “But there’s nothing like family. I’m glad to be here.”
The bowling alley had the feel of being in the stands of the Pro Bowl, as those attending the private event were urged to wear a jersey of their favorite team. While people wore jerseys of multiple teams, they were all unified in celebrating one person: Haskins.
“Everyone is so proud of Dwayne,” said Yolanda Brown, who is cousins with Haskins’ mom. “This is just a real cool gathering for a guy that you hear nothing but great things about.”
Amid the people wearing jerseys representing teams from as far north as New York and as far west as Denver were family members wearing black T-shirts with red lettering spelling out “Haskins Pride” and the No. 7.
“I’m a Giants fan and a Eagles fan, but I’ll root for whatever team he goes to just to see him prosper,” Gary Haskins, the brother of Dwayne Haskins Sr., said before the pick was made.
Where Haskins was going to be drafted was a mystery: Some mock drafts had the Big Ten Player of the Year being selected in the top five; others predicted he’d be picked near the middle or toward the end of the first round.
When he was finally taken with the 15th pick, it was worth the wait.
Even an hour after Haskins was drafted, his father was still on cloud nine.
“Dreams do come true,” Dwayne Haskins Sr. said. “I’m so excited for him. He’s playing for a team that trusts he can be a franchise quarterback. God is good.”
Haskins spent much of the rest of the evening speaking to the media and hugging and shaking hands with the big crowd that converged on him.
Haskins did his best to speak with everyone who wanted a moment with him. But he, by no means, intended to stay at the bowling alley deep into the night.
“I’m going to the 1:30 screening of the Avengers,” Haskins said. “It’s a three-hour movie. Hopefully I can make it through.”