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Andre Dillard Reflects on the NFL Draft

  • Written by Derek Johnson
My first year with the Woodinville Weekly was Andre Dillard’s last as a Woodinville Falcon. I remember his final game at the end of that 2013 season. Dillard was a 240-pound senior, and this was his last hurrah at Pop Keeney Stadium. After the game, we stood at the edge of the field, as fans migrated toward the parking lot and the scoreboard went dark. He cleared his throat a couple times and offered sporadic eye contact. I asked him about his Woodinville career coming to a close.   
 
“It was the best experience of my life,” he said. “I learned so much. My coaches picked me up out of Leota Junior High and coached me into who I am now. They taught me to be a better man. I grew up here.”
Recently we spoke again. Five years had passed since that night at The Popster. Dillard laughed when I brought it up.
 
“I didn’t know how to do an interview back then,” Dillard said. “Nobody had interviewed me before so I didn’t know what to say or do.”
 
GettyImages 1145244689NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - Andre Dillard poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with pick 22 on day 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
THE PASSAGE OF TIME brought changes. After leaving Woodinville, Dillard played football for the Washington State Cougars. Mike Leach was his eccentric coach. (Leach was known for giving disturbing yet brilliant advice that often sucked the air out of rooms). As a senior, Dillard earned First Team All-Pac 12 honors at left tackle. At 6’5” and 310 pounds, he’d become a mountain of a man.
 
A couple weeks ago, Dillard arrived in Nashville, Tennessee for the NFL Draft. Pundits projected him as a first-round pick. But selecting players is an inexact science. Each year brings shocking developments. Nobody ever knows for sure what’ll happen.  
 
Dillard sat down at a table in the Green Room. Seated with him were his mom and dad, brother and sister, grandma and grandpa, girlfriend Whittney and Mason Miller, the WSU offensive line coach.
 
His other two guests were Woodinville head coach Wayne Maxwell, and Woodinville offensive line coach Mike Monan.
 
As Dillard looked across the table at Maxwell and Monan, he couldn’t help but smile. They’d flown across the country to be there.
 
“Them being there with me in the Green Room was one of my favorite moments from the draft,” Dillard said. “Looking at both of them, and knowing it was a special moment to share with them. I wouldn’t have been there without them.”
 
Dillard credited Maxwell with getting him to try out for the high school team. Back in 2009, when Dillard was at Leota Middle School, he was floundering at football. He was tall, skinny and naïve to the game. He’d only been playing for two years – and it showed. Like the time during a scrimmage, when the late Parker Moore drove him seemingly twenty yards backwards. “I was absolutely terrible and had no confidence at all that I would survive at the high school level,” Dillard said.
 
But Wayne Maxwell happened to be teaching a class at Leota, in addition to his duties at Woodinville High School. He hadn’t seen Dillard play, but saw his good frame. He’d also heard that Dillard was discouraged and socially awkward. Maxwell felt football could be good for him. The coach’s office was right by the Leota locker room. And so every day, Dillard walked by that window. And every day, Maxwell caught his eye, smiled, and continued the sales pitch.
 
“Hey Dillard!” Maxwell said. “I think you should try out for the Falcons... Hey Dillard! Have you given it more thought? Are you going to come play for us?”
 
“He knew something that I didn’t,” Dillard said. “He knew about football and my potential. I finally caved in to that and tried out for the Woodinville Falcons.”
 
The next year he joined the varsity and began bonding with Monan.
 
“Coach Monan took me under his wing and taught me many important things,” Dillard said. “He became like another father figure. He treated me like I was his kid. Just like all the O-Line at Woodinville are like his children. It got to the point where Coach Monan would go to the grocery store and buy me a huge bag to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- and send me home to put on weight.”
 
AS THE NFL DRAFT GOT UNDERWAY, Dillard and his guests began the waiting game. Arizona had the first pick. They took Kyler Murray from Oklahoma.
 
“I was thinking Houston would for sure get me if I’m around by 23,” Dillard said. “The Bills liked me, Carolina liked me. So I was thinking maybe those three teams, plus maybe Green Bay.”
 
A couple hours later, it reached the 22nd pick. The Baltimore Ravens were on the clock. Dillard felt agitated. 
 
Suddenly his phone rang. He raised it to his ear and said hello. There was only silence. For ten seconds there was nothing. “I thought the call had dropped,” Dillard said. “So I was confused and freaking out. I was thinking `Am I not going to get drafted?’”
 
It turned out the Philadelphia Eagles were on the line. They’d just traded up in the draft in order to get Dillard.
 
“At that moment I became an Eagle,” Dillard said. “I didn’t think the Eagles were that interested, given that they have such an experienced offensive line already. They’d kept their interest in me on the down low.”
 
Dillard’s dad, Mitch, looked at him. “Who is it?” he asked.
 
“It’s Philly! It’s Philly!”
 
Hugs, fist bumps and tears poured forth around the table. Then NFL staffers instructed them to sit back down. Cameras got into position to record what came next. 
 
From the stage thirty yards away came the booming voice of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “WITH THE 22nd PICK OF THE 2019 NFL DRAFT… THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES SELECT… ANDRE DILLARD… WASHINGTON STATE!”
 
Dillard hugged his mom Jennifer and Mike Monan, then headed toward the stage.
 
“I was in disbelief,” Dillard said. “But I knew where I was going so it felt better. I got to the stairs and I was afraid I was going to fall because my shoes were super long. So I was focusing really hard not to fall on the stairs. Cameras were on me as I walked down the hallway. I was thinking, `This is the path to my destiny, where I’m supposed to be.’”
 
He was handed a green Eagles cap to put on. And onto the stage he strode. Thousands of people viewed him live, and a worldwide audience of 47.5 million watched on TV. Dillard raised three fingers to honor the jersey number of his friend and teammate Tyler Hilinski, the WSU quarterback who committed suicide in 2018.
 
Dillard reached the podium and bear hugged Goodell. The commissioner handed him an Eagles jersey with the name DILLARD on it. “What do you think?” Goodell asked.
 
“It’s awesome!” Dillard said. “It’s awesome! It’s awesome!”
 
“This is amazing isn’t it?”
 
“Yes it is!” Dillard said.
 
An NFL staffer ushered Dillard down into the crowd and toward the Philadelphia section. “It was a mini party going on with Eagles fans,” Dillard said. “They handed me a selfie stick. We were taking a bunch of pictures. It was really fun. After that I went to what they call the `car wash’. A million interviews.”
 
As Dillard faced reporters, he radiated happiness. He handled the questions smoothly. He was five years and a million miles away from Pop Keeney Stadium.  
In the hours that followed, his phone blew up with calls. One came from Mike Leach, his eccentric head coach at Washington State.
 
“He called me after the draft and congratulated me,” Dillard said. “He told me to just keep in mind that the NFL draft is like a wedding day. Everyone will be in tears and all happy. But in time someone could go off and cheat on someone and then the marriage is destroyed. It was kind of a funny send-off.”
 
Derek Johnson can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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