NFL prospects Tristan Wirfs, CJ Henderson reveal altered plans for virtual draft

NFL prospects Tristan Wirfs, CJ Henderson reveal altered plans for virtual draft

Like most college football players, Julian Okwara always fantasized about the day he would be drafted by an NFL team.

“You imagine yourself walking onto the stage, wearing your suit and a nice watch,” the defensive end out of Notre Dame told The Post. “I was going to get dapper.”

Influenced by Conor McGregor’s rakish style, the 22-year-old enlisted the fighter’s tailor David August to make his ensemble for this year’s draft. In a sort of passing of the torch, he planned to pair it with an Audemars Piguet watch that belongs to brother Romeo, a defensive end for the Detroit Lions. There was going to be an afterparty in a Palms Casino resort suite in Las Vegas — he was eyeing one with its own bowling alley.

But the coronavirus crisis changed all of that. Earlier this month, the NFL announced that Thursday’s draft, which was due to take place just off the Las Vegas strip, will be a virtual event with players getting offers on their living room couches. It’s a long way from usual over-the-top rite of passage that transforms college boys into gridiron millionaires.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Julian Okwara.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Julian Okwara.AP

Normally, you would have prospects strutting the red carpet in flashy custom suits. In 2019 Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins wore a white suit inspired by the Power Rangers. This year, the league even planned to have prospects arrive to the stage, crossing the Bellagio fountains in boats.

But now, Julian’s tailored suit is being shelved in favor of jeans, and he’ll stick with his regular Apple watch instead of the Audemars Piguet when he and his family gather in his brother Jamil’s Charlotte, North Carolina, apartment.

Last week, the NFL sent an at-home draft package to each of the 58 invited prospects: two cameras to set up for the broadcast (which viewers can watch on ABC and ESPN), Bose headsets to take the call and a hat from all 32 teams, so signees can immediately show their new allegiance. Video game company EA will create a virtual meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell, where players’ avatars can shake his hand or get a hug.

Florida defensive back CJ Henderson.
Florida defensive back CJ Henderson.AP

“The draft is a culmination of all their hard work and sacrifice that the players and families have made to get there,” said Roc Nation Sports agent Kim Miale, who represents Julian and University of Florida cornerback CJ Henderson. “I had a heart-to-heart with [my players] to find out what they wanted to do, whether that’s making sure they still love what they’re wearing or how they’re celebrating. They are going to have the photos to show their kids and grandkids.”

Henderson, 21, who is projected to be a high first-round pick, is still keeping his fashion game on point thanks to Harlem stylist Danie Creatiz, who also dresses the Giants’ Saquon Barkley.

“CJ loves Dior,” said Creatiz, who had tapped the fashion house to design his draft suit. Now, he will be at his family’s Miami home and pivoting to casual separates by trendy denim brand Amiri and Dior — including $1,150 sneakers from a collaboration between Dior and artist Daniel Arsham.

“The draft pictures will be around for years and we wanted to make sure that whatever he chose, he felt good and looked good,” said Creatiz.

Tristan Wirfs with the Holiday Bowl trophy after the Hawkeyes defeated the USC Trojans in 2019.
Tristan Wirfs with the Holiday Bowl trophy after the Hawkeyes defeated the USC Trojans in 2019.AP

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs — who is touted as a priority for the Giants or Jets — is disappointed to not step up onto the stage but relieved that the dress code has been loosened.

“What would I have worn? I mean, I’m not a fan of getting dressed up,” he said. Wirfs, who is 6-foot-5 and weighs 322 pounds, figured he would get a suit from Bauman & Co, a tailor in his hometown of Mount Vernon, Iowa, run by “three really old guys who sit in the dimly lit basement of their shop, eat donuts and gossip.”

Now, he’s happy to suit up in his Carhartt sweatshirt and celebrate with a pan of his mom’s chicken corn casserole. “That’s my death row meal.”

For Henderson and Julian, their fancy suits have become symbols of hope for the future: Both now plan to debut them at press conferences for their new teams.

Julian Okwara was planning an afterparty in a Palms Casino resort “Bowling Suite” in Las Vegas.

Clint Jenkins



Clint Jenkins



Clint Jenkins

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