If Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, he’ll join a small circle of the most coveted players to emerge from Kansas City-area high schools.
Lock, the Simone Award winner at Lee’s Summit High who crafted a record-setting career at Mizzou, has been projected to be the second or third quarterback selected this week. The mock draft boards have Lock all over the place, from as early as the second pick to as late as the 32nd.
Wherever he lands, Lock will be in Nashville Thursday, awaiting his name to be called amid what has become a football festival. The city expects some 100,000 visitors — this is why Kansas City submitted a bid to be the event’s host — and country stars Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley are playing free concerts.
The draft’s second and third rounds are Friday night, with rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
The whole scene is light years removed from the one witnessed 51 years ago by the player who became the third kid from a Kansas City-area high school selected in the first round.
Russ Washington sat in his living room that day with his immediate family and awaited a telephone call. The draft wasn’t televised then.
But Washington, who played at Southeast High, felt confident he’d get a call. Although scouting then isn’t what it is now, it was difficult to miss Washington. After an All-America senior year at Missouri in 1967 and playing in four all-star games, the 6-6, 290-pound defensive tackle was seen as a top prospect.
Washington didn’t wait long for the telephone conversation. The 1968 draft was the second of three in which NFL and AFL teams of the day combined their selections. The Vikings, Bengals and Falcons made the first three picks. With the fourth selection, the San Diego Chargers took Washington.
“I was on pins and needles that day,” Washington said. “It was a complete roll of the dice. Nobody knew who would be taken where or when. I had this big feeling of relief when it was over.”
Washington had been an All-Big Eight defensive tackle in Columbia and started his NFL career on the defensive side of the ball in San Diego. After two seasons, he switched to offensive tackle and became one of the league’s best.
He played 15 seasons, all for the Chargers, a total of 200 games. Washington started 148 straight games in the 1970s and was a five-time Pro Bowler.
Washington, now 72 and the owner of a car wash business in National City, California, became the third Kansas City high school player selected in the first round. One of the first two, quarterback John Hadl, was a Chargers teammate for a few seasons.
But it wasn’t San Diego that made Hadl a first-round selection. It was the Detroit Lions. They took Hadl, who played at Lawrence High and Kansas, with the 10th overall pick in 1962. But Hadl opted to sign with the AFL and went on to a Pro Bowl career.
The first KC-area player taken in the first round?
Ray Evans, the great all-around athlete from Kansas and Wyandotte High, an All-America in football and basketball. Evans, a halfback, was selected ninth by the Chicago Bears in 1944 but spent three years in the Air Force before resuming his athletic career in football with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A Kansas City high school produced one of four kickers selected in the first round. Steve Little of Shawnee Mission South was taken by the Cardinals in 1978.
Plenty of first-round picks from KC have traveled through Mizzou. If Lock’s name is called Thursday, he’ll follow Aldon Smith in 2011, Shane Ray in 2015 and Charles Harris in 2017 as first-rounders.
But Washington will always be the first.
“I know the draft is not the big party that it is today,” Washington said. “But I remember the total excitement and nerves about not knowing where I’d go.”
KC’s pro football first-rounders
Year, pick, name, position, high school, college, NFL team
1944: 9th, Ray Evans, TB-HB, Wyandotte, Kansas, Bears
1962: 10th, John Hadl, QB, Lawrence, Kansas, Lions
1968: 4th, Russ Washington, DT, Southeast, Missouri, Chargers
1978: 15th, Steve Little, K, SM South, Arkansas, Cardinals
1980: 8th, Mark Haynes, DB, Harmon, Colorado, Giants
1980: 11th, Brad Budde, OL, Rockhurst, USC, Chiefs
1981: 10th, David Verser, WR, Sumner, Kansas, Bengals
1982: 24th, Roy Foster, G-T, SM West, USC, Dolphins
1991: 3rd, Bruce Pickens, DB, Westport, Nebraska, Falcons
2009: 17th, Josh Freeman, QB, Grandview, Kansas State, Bucs
2011: 7th, Aldon Smith, DE, Raytown, Missouri, 49ers
2015: 23rd, Shane Ray, LB, Bishop Miege, Missouri, Broncos
2017: 22nd, Charles Harris DE, Lincoln Prep, Missouri, Dolphins