The Football Player Who Didn’t Know He Had Been Drafted For 50 Years

If you think today’s NFL draft with its cascade of analysis and speculation is a mess, imagine a 32-round draft. The year was 1944 and the world was at war. The Philadelphia Eagles were on the clock, with their 20th selection. They picked a fullback out of Syracuse by the name of Norm Michael. At 6’2” and 192 pounds, Michael was quick, he was strong, he was one of the top-rated backs in the country … but he was apparently injury-prone, suffering a broken leg, two fractured wrists and a broken nose in his three years at Syracuse. So, he dropped to the 20th round, where Philadelphia decided Michael was worth a late pick. There was just one problem: they couldn’t find him. That’s because he had already decided he was done with football and had enlisted in the Army after his junior year. By the time of the draft, he was already stationed at Maxwell Field in Alabama, and 3 months later the Allies invaded Normandy. After the war was over and Michael returned stateside, he didn’t hear from Philadelphia — at all. In fact, he didn’t realize he’d even been drafted for more than half a century. He only learned of it in 1999 while reading an article about Syracuse players drafted into the NFL. He had spent his life working in sales and cheering on the Buffalo Bills, never realizing he could have had a much closer association with the NFL. Michael’s son sent the Eagles a letter after he found out about his dad to see if they owed him a signing bonus. It turns out they didn’t. Now the 78-year-old can only imagine what it would have been like had he not enlisted in the Army.