Daniel Hardy, who didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school at West High, was drafted Saturday by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the seventh round of the NFL draft.
If he makes the team, he'll join three other Alaskans in the league and be the 11th Alaskan to play in the NFL.
"It was like a hundred emotions hitting me at once," Hardy said in a phone interview. "I was in shock, I was humbled, I was overjoyed."
Hardy, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end from the University of Idaho, was the 238th player chosen -- narrowly avoiding the title of "Mr. Irrelevant," given playfully to the final pick of the annual draft. That title went to Cheta Ozougwu, a linebacker from Rice who was taken 254th.
Hardy watched the draft on TV at his agent's house in Cincinnati. He said he didn't start fearing he wouldn't be drafted until the sixth round gave way to the seventh and final round.
"I couldn't even watch the TV anymore," he said.
He went outside to be alone and play basketball, throwing chest passes against a wall and checking ESPN draft updates on his phone.
When his phone buzzed with a call from a phone number he didn't recognize, he answered nervously and heard Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris ask him if he wanted to be a Buccaneer.
"I could barely breathe, but I said, 'Yes sir. You have a man that is going to give everything he has and more to the organization,' " Hardy said.
Hardy, 23, said he has dreamed since grade school of becoming a professional athlete in soccer, basketball or football. He starred in basketball and soccer at West and then as a junior decided to try football too.
But as his college career unfolded, he wasn't even thinking about playing professionally.
"My whole goal was on earning a scholarship," said Hardy, who graduated in December with a degree in communications. "Everything just started happening gradually."
While in high school he attracted no scholarship offers from Division I colleges, and only Idaho let him try out for the team as a walk-on. He made the team and went on to earn a scholarship after his freshman season.
It wasn't until Hardy completed his junior season that NFL scouts started contacting him. He was an emerging talent on an improving Vandals team that won the Humanitarian Bowl in December 2009, and after that scouts started calling him and sending him Facebook messages.
Saturday brought a barrage of calls and messages from well-wishers. His parents called first while he was still on the phone with Tampa Bay coaches. They had seen his selection on TV in Anchorage.
"When I talked to my dad and my mom, I broke down," Hardy said. "I can't remember when I cried like that."
Being drafted doesn't guarantee a player a spot on a team, particularly for late-round picks like Hardy. But nor does it doom a player's chances.
Brandon Drumm, a 1998 Service High grad, was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions and spent one month with the team before getting cut. Mark Schlereth, a 1984 Service grad, was drafted in 10th round by the Washington Redskins and spent 12 seasons in the league, winning a Super Bowl with the Redskins and two with the Denver Broncos.
It's uncertain when Hardy will get a chance to prove himself to the Bucs.
If it weren't for the NFL lockout, he would likely be packing up to attend a mini-camp next week. Instead, he'll return to Anchorage on Monday -- his dad's 53rd birthday -- and spend time with his parents and 11 siblings, who haven't seen him in about a year.
"I'm excited to come back and see my whole family," he said. "Getting that home-cooked food."
Because he was drafted, Hardy is allowed to maintain limited contact with Tampa Bay. But he said progress on everything from training requirements to contract negotiations are in a state of limbo until the lockout ends.
Hardy said he isn't worried about being in shape for his first training camps because he has the perfect workout partner in dad Dan, an avid bodybuilder most of his life.
"I'm gonna be OK," Hardy said. "I'll be running the hills of Anchorage."