I stand next to Colton Wild and Dylan Wild in the back of the pro football draft green room. We’re three ballers doing whatever we can to not look nervous while we wait for our names to be called. Colton and Dylan were my college teammates, and we’re all hoping like hell to be drafted in the first round.
“You’re going first,” Colton says to Dylan. “Bet on it. I say you’ll be top ten.”
Dylan runs a hand through his dark hair. “As long as I get drafted, I’m good.”
“The higher you’re picked, the bigger your contract,” I argue him.
“I don’t care about the money,” Dylan says in a way only a person who’s about to never have to worry about money again would say.
I raise an eyebrow at Colton. “Your cousin’s a better man than I am. I want that contract.”
I need it. I have to worry about feeding my three little brothers because my father is disabled and can’t work.
My phone buzzes with a text. I pull it out of my suit pants pocket and read the message on the screen.
Chance and I go back. We’re technically related somehow through my mother and his dad, but nobody could ever figure out how many cousins once removed we actually are, so we refer to each other as friends. He’s been my only non-football friend that I can remember having, although he was a rugby player in Australia, so he gets what it’s like to be an athlete.
He’s been through a lot, and we’ve somehow managed to stay in touch throughout all of it.
I hope so, I type back to him.
Aubrey and I are watching on TV. You’ve got this, Mav.
My dad and three brothers are with me at the draft tonight. Colton and Dylan requested that all our families be seated together. Colt and Dylan are cousins, so having their families sit together makes sense.
My family sitting with them is a bit odd, but the Wilds are good guys, and they made it seem perfectly normal. The truth is that my dad hates being seen as an invalid, so having cameras focused just on him was bound to make him uncomfortable. And my brothers are all little hellions, but Colt’s mom, who’s a damn saint, offered to help watch them.
Throw in Dylan and Colton’s three other cousins—Ayden, Brayden, and Cameron—plus Colton’s best friend, Jenson, and I’ve got more backup than I need.
“I’m gonna miss you Wilds. Where else will I get free babysitting?” I joke.
But Colton shakes his head. “The three of us could get drafted by the same team. It’ll be like college all over again.”
Getting drafted by a team in California would be great. Los Angeles would be ideal. Somewhere close to my family so I can help out.
But nothing will be like college again.
My financial responsibility for my family is about to begin in earnest, and I can’t fail my dad.
The commissioner steps to the podium. As he begins the process of welcoming everyone, Colton elbows me.
“My cousin’s about to be in for an awakening. He really doesn’t think he’s going first.”
Dylan glances over at us. “Shut the hell up,” he admonishes Colton.
He’s a good three inches taller than Colt and me even though the two of us easily top six feet.
But Colton just laughs. “Wait and see.”
“And the pick is in,” the commissioner says into the microphone. “With the first pick in the draft, the California Cougars select Dylan Wild.”
The crowd noise is deafening with cheers and clapping. Colton grabs Dylan in a hug, and I pound on his back with my fist.
“You did it, Wild! Congrats, man.”
Dylan reaches out an arm and pulls me into the hug.
It feels like the end of an era. The second Dylan’s name is called, it all becomes real. College is definitely over, and professional life is about to start.
Dylan’s parents and brother half-heartedly congratulate him, and I can’t help thinking Colton was right when he said Dylan’s family isn’t the kind any kid would wish for.
But Dylan’s too big to be held down by anyone. He strides across the room and up to the stage. He shakes the commissioner’s hand and dons a Cougars’ cap.
Colton watches the scene play out on the stage. “He fucking did it.”
Dylan stops at the end of the stage for an interview, and then he’s whisked off to the media room.
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