When the NFL Draft finally made it into the TV listings

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As with any other draft years removed, a look back at the 1980 NFL Draft is a trip through the memory bank.

And for draftniks of all ages, the 1980 draft, which kicked off 34 years ago Tuesday, is of particular historical importance, for it was the first draft televised, according to the league. ESPN, which had been on-air for less than a year, broadcast the event, as it does now.

The Lions began the 1980 draft by selecting Oklahoma running back Billy Sims, who made the Pro Bowl three times in his first four seasons before a knee injury in the midst of an outstanding 1984 season ended his career.

Two picks later, the first future Hall of Famer of the Class of 1980 was taken, with the Bengals selecting USC offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, an 11-time All-Pro. In the latter stages of the round, another Hall of Famer came off the board, as Syracuse wideout Art Monk landed with Washington at No. 18. Monk would go on to play for three Super Bowl-winning teams for Washington.

Then, in Round Two, the Dolphins selected one of the great centers of all-time, taking Alabama’s Dwight Stephenson 48 picks into the draft. Like Monk and Munoz, Stephenson is in Canton, and all three players made the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team.

It was, glancing now at the picks, a lot like other drafts — some standouts, some busts. But it was the first you could glance on TV, provided you had the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

19 responses to “When the NFL Draft finally made it into the TV listings

  1. It’s also kind of reassuring in a way. For example, as a result of the 1980 draft, the Minnesota Vikings did not win the Super Bowl. Just like all drafts since (and before) then. In this crazy world, it’s reassuring to know that some things will never change.

  2. Billy Sims was phenomenal. Hated to see his career end so soon. I think he had a huge Lloyd’s of London policy on his knees, so he ended up ok. I think he has his own meat company now and is doing well.

  3. The Much-Maligned Mark Malone would’ve been better had he had a better team around him. The Steelers’ drafts of the 1980s were horrifying. Aside from Louie Lipps and Rod Woodson, there wasn’t much to talk about in the ’80s. Weegie Thompson is my personal favorite draft selection. Thompson was a starting wide receiver who helped run Malone out of town…

  4. There used to be a really good Youtube clip of Howard Cossell saying how Pete Rozelle should be knighted for getting ESPN to cover the NFL draft – “One of the more ridiculous, overhyped, non-events in the history of sport.”

    NFL probably had it removed

  5. Yeah, I remember the days when you had to wait for the newspaper to come out to find out who your team drafted, first 17 rounds, and then down to 12 rounds at some point.

    I also remember that the NFL draft (not sure which year) was the only time I saw the best draft analyst ever, the late Joel Buschbaum, interviewed on TV. Joel > Mel Kiper Jr.

  6. I was only 10 years old at the time of the 1980 draft and just beginning to understand football.

    The first draft I remember watching was 1983, when the Steelers put a 20-year curse on themselves by drafting Gabe Rivera instead of Dan Marino. I was a Raiders fan then, and was upset when Rozelle illegally killed the Raiders trade with the Bears to get the #6 pick so they could take Marino. It worked out OK, with a very-over-the-hill Jim Plunkett guiding the Raiders to the championship. But it would have been nice to have Marino for the following 15 years instead of the likes of Marc Wilson, Rusty Hilger, Todd Marinovich, Jay Schroeder and Jeff Hostetler.

    ESPN is so full of themselves now, I never watch their draft coverage. I stick with NFL Network. Rich Eisen long ago passed blowhard Chris Berman as the better lead anchor, and while Mike Mayock is as full of himself as Mel Kiper, Mayock is far less obnoxious about it.

  7. One big difference between Anthony Munoz, Dwight Stephenson, and Art Monk…

    … Anthony Munoz is the only one out of the three on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team (ranking the greatest EVER).

  8. I remember that day….no one could even figure out what the acronym ESPN even stood for, and it’s limited broadcasting in the early days, maybe 18 hours a day?

  9. We didn’t get cable until 1983. A pretty good draft for QB’s as I recall. Funny to think about how Marino slid because he was supposedly a hop head. Elway playing the Prima Donna, not wanting to play for the Colts, how ironic is that? Six HOF’ers in the first round. The first two picks Elway and Dickerson and the last two picks Marino and D. Green sandwiching the 9th and 14th pick Matthews and Kelly.

  10. To this day I am amazed that the Bengals–the Bengals!–picked the greatest OT ever!

  11. The Steelers’ “20-year curse” actually only lasted 10 years, until 1992, when Bill Cowher was hired. He immediately turned the Steelers back into perennial powers.

  12. I met Munoz once in Hawaii, during the Pro Bowl. He took the time to talk to us. Very classy guy! Will never forget that even though I am not a Bangles fan.

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