More than a dozen football players from universities around the Mountain West are headed to the NFL. They were drafted over the weekend as a record number of fans tuned in.
Fourteen students from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho schools were selected. That’s on par with past years, but what’s unusual is the more than 35% spike in viewership.
“It’s been a tough couple of months for sports fans, and to have one of the biggest sporting events of the year come at a time when everyone is at home craving that content and craving that drama, it was the right thing at the right time," said Jesse Kurtz, executive producer of the Mountain West Network.
Over the last several years the draft has grown into a huge spectacle in places like grand ballrooms. But this year, many young athletes were videoed in their homes with loved ones. Even so, fans appreciated a break from the pandemic and life in general.
“It does prove the importance of sports in America,” Kurtz said. “You know, sometimes it can be trivial, and it is just a game. But I think we’re finding out with each passing weekend or weeknight where we don’t have sports, how much we rely on it to bring us together.”
The only player from the Mountain West region or Mountain West Conference drafted in the first round was Utah State University quarterback Jordan Love, picked 26th by the Green Bay Packers.
Three drafted players came from Boise State University, most notably Ezra Cleveland, an offensive lineman, who the Minnesota Vikings selected with the 58th overall pick. Boise State has now sent at least one player to the NFL for 11 consecutive years.
"That was cool to watch it because not only did you see some Boise State players go, but it just made you feel kind of like, 'OK, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,' that there are going to be some things to look forward to," said Brad Larrondo, an associate athletic director there.
Other players drafted from our region included seven from the University of Utah , three from the University of Colorado, two from the University of Wyoming and one from Utah State University.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.