The NFL is returning to its unlikely roots later this month in Rock Island — a city whose entire population of roughly 38,000 could fit inside the average NFL stadium…and still have thousands of seats to spare.
City officials released details on Wednesday of the upcoming sixth round of the NFL draft: a live, televised pick will be made on April 27 at Augustana College's football stadium and grounds, known as the Austin E. Knowlton Athletic Complex.
In January, the NFL announced it would hold part of the draft's sixth round in Rock Island to commemorate the city where the first NFL game was played. On September 26, 1920, the Rock Island Independents defeated the St. Paul Ideals, 48-0, at Douglas Park on the city's west side.
Now that some of the specifics of the 2019 draft are out, Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Dave Herrell expects the free event will draw a big hometown crowd.
"This is a really big deal for Rock Island, this is a really big deal for the Quad Cities," said Herrell. "Things like this don't happen very often in your backyard, and the fact that we've got this unique opportunity to host it is something that we should all get behind."
Gates to the Knowlton Athletic Complex will open at 12:00 p.m. The festivities will kick off with a kids' football clinic led by players from Augustana College, Rock Island High School, and Alleman High School.
Following that will be a re-creation of the first NFL game at 2:00 p.m. The reenactors will play under the original rules, as they scrum in throwback uniforms and leather helmets.
The NFL has not yet set an official time for the draft, but city officials say the pick will be made sometime between 2:00 and 4:30 p.m.
The sixth round will see the league's 32 teams taking turns choosing from a pool of 111 players who hope to make it big in the NFL.
The latter rounds of the draft — there are seven total — are known for having introduced some under-the-radar players who would eventually go on to become household names. Tom Brady, considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time, was plucked from obscurity when the New England Patriots selected the University of Michigan graduate in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.