CLEVELAND — With less than 24 hours until the first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, die-hard football fans are flying into Cleveland from all over the country and they said they are pumped to see what the 216 has in store.
“The minute they actually said the draft was going to happen I booked my flight and got the room at the Westin Downtown. Really excited,” Daniel Branch said.
Hundreds of passengers touched down in Browns territory Wednesday night.
“We just love to go into different cities and see what each city has to offer,” Dina Watson said. “For the NFL to come here, there’s gotta be something going on here.”
For some fans like Watson, attending the draft is an annual tradition.
“My husband and I, we’ve been doing it since 2011,” Watson said. “Every single year, of course, except for last year.”
Branch has attended several drafts as well and plans to kill two birds with one stone while in town.
“I went to my first NFL draft in 1989 and I was about 24 years old,” Branch said. “Who’s playing Saturday night?! Miami Heat! In Cleveland! Nothing better!”
For others, tickets to the draft in Cleveland came as a pleasant surprise.
“My girlfriend got me tickets for my birthday last month to come up here and she knows I’m super excited about it,” Luke Rado said. “I opened up an envelope and it was Spirit Airlines tickets to Cleveland and it had NFL stuff on it.”
Sandra Alexander and her husband were shocked to find they’d been hand-picked by their favorite team.
“We are season ticket holders for the Los Angeles Chargers and they were gracious enough to invite us as their special guests,” Alexander said. “I’m hoping we have time to drive down to Canton and go visit the Hall of Fame. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Seahawks fans traveled for more than 12 hours before finally touching down at Cleveland Hopkins.
“We were chosen because of volunteer work that we do with the booster club,” Tina Rothert said. “We are in touch with a whole lot of people and you’re about to get converged upon in the next couple of hours.”
Diana Kain said Seahawks fans are a tight-knit group.
“We’re all super close with each other, which I think is unlike a lot of teams,” Kain said.
While many of the Wednesday travelers cheer for different home teams, they have one thing in common.
“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of course. Gotta do that while you’re here,” Rado said. “I know this sounds cheesy. I don’t know if this is that great, but I’ve always wanted to go to the Wahlburger’s restaurant.”
They all did their research and scoped out the CLE beforehand.
“We have investigated everything online. Little Italy and things like that,” Anita Rahn said.
While it’s not Branch’s first draft, it is his first time in Northeast Ohio and he landed just in time.
“We’ve been to Dallas, Philly, New York. We’ve been to many drafts,” Branch said. “And I’m looking forward to Cleveland right now.”
The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday at 8 p.m.