Gareon Conley was sitting in a Canton, Ohio, hotel room with his family watching the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft when his cell phone rang.
While he had an inkling of what the result of that phone call would be – a dream of being picked in the first round of the NFL Draft fulfilled – he didn't know whose voice was going to be on the other end of the receiver to deliver the news.
As it turns out, the voice was the Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, informing the former Ohio State Buckeye – through raucous cheers and tears from Conley's family – that he would be the newest member of the Silver and Black.
"When I answered the phone, everybody just tackled me," said Conley. "I couldn't even hear the call, honestly, it was crazy. My mom fell over her chair trying to run after me. It was just wild."
When the celebrating subsided, Conley packed his bags and hopped on a plane to California, reflecting on the whirlwind of the past 24 hours during his cross-country flight.
"It was just like a roller coaster honestly," Conley said. "I always had faith though. My mom, she was really a big part in that, my agent, just my whole support system, and I didn't know where I was going to go honestly. I'd seen stuff that said, 'not first round, third round, undrafted,' so I didn't know, but I kept faith in God, and he showed me the way."
With 42 games – and 27 starts – under his belt at Ohio State, Conley was heralded as one of the more polished cornerbacks in this year's draft, but even with all that collegiate experience to his name, the newest Raiders defensive back is a willing pupil, and his football education started the moment he landed at San Francisco International Airport; literally, as defensive backs coach Rod Woodson was part of the welcoming committee that met him when he touched down.
During the limousine ride to the East Bay, player and coach got to know each other a little better, discussing topics from defensive strategy to...fishing?
"We talked about football and off-the-field stuff, like fishing, because I've never been fishing," Conley said with a smile. "He [Woodson] told me he'd take me fishing, and we were talking about the game itself, and how it's not that much different, just a higher competition level."
Outdoor activities aside, Woodson is one of the best defensive backs to ever play the game, and Conley is now looking forward to beginning his education under the Hall of Famer.
"I know I'm going to soak in so much information from him, and learn from him," Conley explained. "We were talking football on the way over here, and everything he says I'm going to soak in like a sponge and use it."
Not only will the athletic defensive back learn from Woodson, but he'll also have the chance to go toe-to -toe with some of the best wide receivers in the league on a daily basis in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
And for a rookie looking to cut his chops in the NFL, those reps will be invaluable.
"That's what made us good at Ohio State, we had all good people on both sides of the ball, and I feel like here, it's even better," Conley said. "That's what's going to make me a better player."
For the uninitiated, Conley describes himself as a "good press corner," with "good ball skills," but for the time being, the rookie cornerback isn't interested in major proclamations, he just wants to help the team win.
"I play nickel and corner, so versatility is a part of my game as well," Conley said. "I'm going to come in and do everything I can to add value to the team and help win a championship."