There were times over the past three months when Todd Stoney thought this day would never come.
In fact, on the afternoon of April 25, the final day of the National Football League college draft, Stoney thought he had heard his swan song in football.
"It's hard, especially that second day, because you sit there waiting for the phone to ring," said Stoney, who had hoped to follow the trail blazed by his Occidental teammate Vance Mueller, picked by the Los Angeles Raiders in the fourth round of the 1986 NFL draft.
When Stoney wasn't contacted by any teams, reality sunk in. "We went out and shot baskets by the end of the day," he said.
But when the Raiders scrimmage the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard today at 1:30 p.m., Stoney will don the silver and black. The four-time Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first-team defensive back signed a free-agent contract with the Raiders after the draft and has been working out at Raider facilities in El Segundo for the past two months.
Cracking the lineup will be difficult for Stoney, especially because the Raiders drafted defensive backs Terry McDaniel from Tennessee (first round), UCLA's Dennis Price (fifth) and Nebraska's Derrick Crudup (seventh). However, coaches were impressed with Stoney's work ethic and his time of 4.41-seconds in the 40-yard dash at mini-camp.
"He has been a surprise for us but it will be tough, no doubt about it," defensive back Coach Jimmy Warren said.
Stoney is accustomed to surprising coaches. Before he transferred to Occidental, he weighed 140 pounds and wasn't interested in playing college football.
But after concentrating solely on academics during his freshman year at UCLA, Stoney suffered from sports withdrawal and decided to start his football career anew at Occidental.
Occidental Coach Dale Widolff won't be surprised if Stoney survives the Raiders' final cut. Widolff gave Stoney the toughest receiver assignment every week.
"He's the best defensive back in eight years in this league," he said.