- The Washington Times - Monday, April 27, 2020

Just on his dad’s side alone, Keith Ismael has so many family members that the new Redskins center couldn’t even begin to put an exact number on it.

There were hundreds, the fifth-rounder guessed — all scattered across multiple cities. Seattle. Portland. Las Vegas. Even on islands like American Samoa.

So when it came time to narrow down the guest list for his draft day party, the 21-year-old had some tough decisions to make.

“A lot of people wanted to be here,” Ismael said. “But we tried to keep it safe and play our part in fighting this pandemic.”

Across the NFL, draft prospects like Ismael found themselves having to adapt.



Instead of walking across the stage in thousand-dollar suits or throwing extravagant parties, many went with more intimate gatherings to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Ismael narrowed his list down to his agents, close immediate family members and a few of his best friends at his home in San Diego.

The scaled-back environment didn’t appear to ruin the mood. As new Redskins linebacker Khaleke Hudson spoke with reporters after he was drafted, loud cheers could be heard in the background.

The Michigan product rented out a small house to host 10 to 15 of his family and friends, he said. Hudson added he was glad he was able to enjoy the experience with them.

“The way they scream, it sounds like there’s like a hundred people,” Hudson said.

At Chase Young’s party in Maryland, the 21-year-old struck a balance.

A crowd of friends, fans and well-wishers gathered outside his family’s Upper Marlboro home, but when the Redskins took Young at No. 2, the defensive end was inside with a small group — television cameras showed seven people in the frame.

Young smiled as coach Ron Rivera delivered the news to Young’s father that his son would be a Redskin.

From the front porch, Young thanked the supporters who’d braved coronavirus and a steady drizzle to celebrate the big night.

“It was quite a few people,” Young said. “And I appreciate them for coming out and supporting me, knowing that it was raining and things like that.”

Young was one of 58 prospects who allowed cameras into their homes for the draft. With no green room, the NFL supplied players with the technology and also gave them hats of all 32 teams so that they could don one at the appropriate moment.

Previous drafts featured hugs, daps and bodyslams between players and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Those interactions couldn’t be replicated this year, but there were other highlights from the three-day event that won’t be forgotten.

Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, for instance, went viral when cameras caught him quickly grabbing back one of his phones from his girlfriend. After Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson was drafted, his mother grabbed viewers’ attention when she forcibly lifted the player’s girlfriend out of the way to get closer to her son

Those moments made for good TV — and it’s something that the NFL will try to capture moving forward. League executive Peter O’Reilly told The NFL Network that the league plans to incorporate phone cameras into more prospects homes next year, even when the green room returns.

Circumstances of this year’s draft aside, players still got to feel the rush of finding out they had been drafted.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ismael said. “Heart dropped a little bit, some tears were shed, but out of happiness, pure joy. This has been a goal of mine since I was a kid. So for it to finally come into fruition, I couldn’t be happier.”

 

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