For a young person growing up playing football, getting drafted is one of the greatest dreams that can be fulfilled. To hear your name called—to have your family hear your name—and to know that your life may very well change forever is hard to imagine.
Which can make it all the more difficult to be so close and watch that dream slipping away. That’s how former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Travis Feeney felt while waiting to hear his own name called. In fact, as he told former Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats, after the fifth round came and went, he left his friends and family that had gathered to experience the day with him.
“’Y’all might as well shut this draft party down because I ain’t going’”, he said. “I’m literally sitting on the toilet, not even going to the bathroom, just sitting there. I’m losing it in the bathroom. I’m hot”.
That proved to be just a bit of a problem when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did get on the phone at the end of the sixth round. “Coach T calls me, he’s like, ‘It’s Coach T with the Steelers’”, Feeney recalled. “But I’ve had friends calling me messing around and I’m like, ‘Whatever, dude. Y’all not drafting me, whatever’”.
Not the greatest first impression you can make on your future head coach. To the best of my knowledge, the Steelers never had any formal meetings with Feeney along the way, though they may have spoken with him informally at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. So, this could have been the first conversation he ever had with Tomlin.
“I remember he’s like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna draft you, just come and see’. I’m like, ‘Alright, then stay on the phone and then we’ll see if you’re gonna draft me’”, Feeney told him. “The pick goes up and I said, ‘Oh crap’”.
The rest is history, though not much of it. As you may know, Feeney never played a single snap for the Steelers. A series of injuries did him no favors. He was on the practice squad as a rookie, with the New Orleans Saints signing him that December, but he didn’t play a game.
He subsequently played in the Alliance of American Football with the San Diego Fleet, then had a one-day stint with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. He eventually played for the Toronto Argonauts in 2021.
Feeney is currently playing for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, who are 5-2 at the moment, one game behind the D.C. Defenders in the North conference. He has 18 tackles with 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss.
Feeney never did get a real second chance in the NFL. The Saints only carried him until June in 2017, and after that, he never got another deal in the league. He was an intriguing athletic specimen, running a 4.5-second 40 as an outside linebacker, but was rather undersized. Pittsburgh could have brought him back if Tomlin really wanted to. But it’s still cool to see that he is continuing to pursue his passion of playing professional football.