ESPN History

Drafting through the years

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In 1980:

* The median household income in the United States was $17,710.
* The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.1 percent.
* A first-class postage camp cost 15 cents.
* The NFL draft on television was just a glint in ESPN executive Chet Simmons’ eye.

Thirty-one years later, those 1980 economic numbers seem quaint — and the NFL draft can be seen on multiple networks and platforms.

The NFL draft on television debuted on ESPN in 1980, an idea that then-commissioner Pete Rozelle had his doubts about at the time.

In the slideshow above, we’ve unearthed some old photos featuring, among others, blossoming ESPN talents Bob Ley and Chris Berman. We’ve also included some photos of more recent vintage from drafts in this century.

A favorite features 1980 first overall pick Billy Sims, who became a star with the Detroit Lions. The University of Oklahoma running back sported a classic Afro and some stylish lapels as he joined ESPN anchor George Grande and NFL executive Joe Thomas on that studio dais.

Two years later another Sims — University of Texas defensive tackle Kenneth Sims — shared the spotlight clutching his New England Patriots jersey with the help of Rozelle.

The 2011 NFL draft started Thursday with the Round 1, continued Friday with Rounds 2-3. Beginning Saturday at noon ET, ESPN and ESPNU will air Rounds 4-7.

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