EAGAN, Minn. – Garrett Bradbury didn't get an invite to the 2019 NFL Draft.
But while some may have found that disappointing, the center says it really was a blessing in disguise.
When Bradbury got the call from the Vikings, who were using the No. 18 overall pick to select the N.C. State standout, he wasn't in Nashville; rather, he was surrounded by friends and family who had witnessed most of his football journey.
"I didn't receive an invite to the draft … and in hindsight, I'm thankful for that," he said.
We recently asked Bradbury to reflect back a year and identify the part of his draft day that most stands out to him.
"That's an easy one," Bradbury said. "Just being with all the people that helped get me there. I had my high school head coach, I had my college o-line coach, I had probably 10 close friends and some families, as well, that helped my parents raise me – and then obviously my immediate family."
What could have been a high-stress situation, he recalled, was anything but.
"Obviously there were some nerves … but I trusted that there was a plan and I was going to go wherever I needed to go," Bradbury said, adding that he opted against an over-the-top party because, as he put it, "You never know when you're going to be taken."
But the opening night of the draft was only halfway through when he looked down at his phone and saw the Minnesota area code.
He admits the number threw him off at first glance because another team had been on-deck for its pick.
"You see the area code, but it's a few minutes before that actual pick comes, so I wasn't really sure," Bradbury said with a laugh. "So I was a little confused and then figured that out. I was just so excited.
"It honestly didn't really hit me that I was going to Minnesota until I was flying there the next day," he added.
Bradbury arrived at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center less than 24 hours after receiving that call from his parents' home near Charlotte, North Carolina. He received his Purple 56 jersey and effectively started his NFL career.
With his rookie season in the rearview mirror, he could not be happier about being a part of the Vikings locker room.
In just a few days, a new group of talented prospects will begin their own journeys at the pro level.
The 2020 NFL Draft will look much different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bradbury is encouraging the prospects, however, to cherish every moment and not take experience for granted.
"While following the guidelines of the CDC and [other directives], just make the most of [the draft]. Enjoy it, because it's only going to happen once, and there's a plan in place that you might not know about," Bradbury said. "And it's not about how high you get drafted; it's about the best fit. I think you understand that more once you're with the team. Minnesota was the perfect fit for so many reasons for me, and I had a blast in year one.
"As social-distancing guidelines allow, be with the people who helped get you there, and enjoy that night with everyone. It's not just your night," he added. "That's what I would say to this year's draft class."