Jim Wyatt, Senior Writer/Editor, TitansOnline.com
Gil Brandt has been a part of every NFL Draft since 1960, dating back to his early days with the Dallas Cowboys. He thinks the NFL Draft in Nashville will be “an all-star event.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gil Brandt’s first trip to Nashville was in 1960, and that’s also the first year he attended the NFL Draft.
Needless to say, a lot has changed since.
The NFL Draft is headed to Music City in 2019. The 85-year-old Brandt has been a part of every draft over the last 59 years, from his early days with the Dallas Cowboys to his current gig with the league.
He can hardly wait.
“I think Nashville is a great town, and I’ve always felt that way from the first time I visited there – a long time ago,” Brandt said. “And I think it is a heck of a place to have the draft. I think the people that live in the city will respond to it, and people from everywhere will want to come to town for it.
“Nashville has gone from being a great city to an unbelievable city. And the draft, it’s going to be incredible there. I think everybody that goes, it is an experience that can’t be duplicated. The fans that are local, everybody will be interested to see who the Titans take in the draft, for example. But it’s a five-day event that will bring fans from everywhere, and every kid and their parents will leave town and it will be something they’ll never forget. People should be excited about it.”
Brandt served as the chief talent scout for the Cowboys in 1960, and he became Vice President of Player Personnel, a job he held until 1989. After that he joined the NFL as a personnel consultant for the NFL Combine, and the draft. He’s also an analyst for NFL.com, and a SiriusXM NFL Radio host.
Brandt attends the draft every year.
Brandt’s first trip to Nashville was for a Vanderbilt-Tennessee State football game in 1960. He stayed at the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt, and this week recalled a lot of things about his early trips to the city.
He became friends with the legendary sports writers in the town, from Fred Russell to John Bibb to F.M. Williams. He fondly recalled Elmore “Scoop” Hudgins, Vanderbilt’s Sports Information Director at the time.
“And I remember the fried chicken they had in the press box,” Brandt said with a chuckle. “It was off the charts.”
Hot chicken is now the big thing in the city, which he noted, “has taken off.”
The exact location for the festivities won’t be known for a while.
The city and team let the NFL know a variety of venues available in Nashville, and the footprint discussed in the downtown area includes Nissan Stadium, lower Broadway, Ascend Amphitheater, the Music City Center, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Music City Walk of Fame Park.
Brandt, who competed against long-time Oilers and Titans owner Bud Adams for years, credited the city of Nashville for landing the event.
He offered praise for Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, daughter of his long-time rival in Texas.
“She’s doing a great job,” Brandt said. “I think Amy speaks softly, but carries a big stick.”
Nashville will be heard loud and clear next April, Brandt said.
The dates for next year’s draft have been set: April 25-27.
After holding the draft each year in New York City, the NFL turned the draft into a road show in recent years, holding it in Dallas in 2018, Philadelphia in 2017, and Chicago in 2015 and 2016. Now it’s Nashville’s turn.
As part of the event, the NFL Draft Experience Presented By Oikos Triple Zero® – a massive free football festival – will allow fans of all teams to participate and test their football skills, enjoy interactive exhibits and autograph sessions, and take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, according to a release from the NFL. The Draft Experience will be open all three days of the event.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presides over the first day of the NFL Draft. In previous years, many of the players projected as first-round draft picks have been invited to attend.
The 2018 event set a record as the highest-rated and most-watched draft ever, eclipsing the previous record set in 2014. The 2018 Draft marked the first time that the entirety of the event was aired on broadcast television, which helped attract more than 45 million total viewers over three days of coverage.
“I have fond memories and I think the city is great,” Brandt said. “And I think Nashville is going to put on a show. I think they’ll really respond to it, and make it an all-star event.
“I’m telling you, it is going to be great there. It has so much going for it – the streets are laid out well, the weather is good, hospitality is great. I’m already looking forward to going back.”