The former Ursuline High and Wisconsin standout got the call while in church.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The telephone call that changed Mike Echols' life couldn't have come at a more appropriate place.
One of the top cornerbacks in this year's NFL draft, Echols, an Ursuline High graduate and Wisconsin standout, labored through the first three rounds Saturday at his home in Youngstown without hearing his name called.
"It seemed so long," said Echols, 23, of the draft Saturday. "I took a nap in between. I was trying to keep my mind off of it as much as I could. I was sitting on pins and needles."
That call never came, and Echols tried his best to sleep that night.
A fresh start
Echols went to church Sunday morning with his family, and before the service had ended he knew his football fate.
"I got the call during the service," Echols said. "I went out to the lobby to take it."
It was a representative from the Tennessee Titans, who selected Echols 12th (110th overall) in the fourth round of the seven-round draft.
"Things work out funny sometimes," he said, "but there wouldn't be a better place [to get that call] than in that church."
Echols' conversation with the Titans around 11:30 a.m. Sunday was brief, but he got some encouraging words from coach Jeff Fisher.
"I really had no idea, no clue, on who might pick me up," Echols said.
Indianapolis was almost set on taking Echols with the ninth pick of the third round Saturday. The Colts even made a call to Youngstown.
"They were on the verge of taking me, but for some reason they changed their mind," Echols said.
The Colts used that pick to take another cornerback, Western Kentucky's Joseph Jefferson.
"We all knew eventually something good was going to happen," Echols said. "Regardless of how it went, I would still come out a winner.
"I still have my degree [behavioral science and law] and a lot of things working for me," he said. "The support of my family made it a lot easier."
After being redshirted in 1997, Echols became one of Wisconsin's top players.
He established the school's career mark for pass break-ups (62), was fifth on the career interception list (12) and made more starts (47) than any current Wisconsin player.
Echols probably would have been taken earlier in the draft if not for a stress fracture he suffered in his left shin while preparing for the NFL combine in January.
The injury isn't serious, Echols said, but will take some time to heal.
"The stress fracture kept teams away," Echols said.
"That's understandable. Teams invest a lot of money in you to contribute right away."
Tennessee showed its confidence in Echols, despite his injury, and Echols has shown confidence in himself.
"Once I get healthy enough to go in and compete at 100 percent, I can help the defense," he said.
The transition into the Titans organization should be made easier for Echols because of some familiar faces.
He played college football with current Titans safety Bobby Myers and also has trained with Wisconsin-Stout cornerback Tony Beckham, taken by the Titans five picks later.
"It's not like I'm going down there blind or without anybody," Echols said.
Echols was to fly to Tennessee on Sunday night or today for a physical with the Titans. There is also a mini-camp scheduled this weekend.
"This is my new job," Echols said. "It's time to go to work."