The Chicago Bears were on the NFL Draft clock and Tyler Eifert's phone rang.
His father, Greg Eifert, jumped to conclusions.
“We thought he was going to be a Bear,” Greg said. “We were excited he was going to be in Chicago.”
It wasn't the Bears.
Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was on the phone. The Bengals, a team no one had projected as interested in Eifert, took the record-setting Notre Dame tight end with the No.21 pick in the first round Thursday.
Within seconds, the Eiferts – from Tyler to his parents Greg and Julie to his family and friends who had gathered at the Eifert family home in northeast Allen County – came to the conclusion the Bengals felt like a good call indeed.
“I love Cincinnati,” Greg Eifert said. “I love the Bengals. I love their coach. I think it's a great fit for Ty, I really do. To be that close to home where people can see him play – we're really excited for him.”
Tyler Eifert was excited, too, perhaps more so than any time in his life.
He has been anxious for days, trying to guess where he would go in the draft. He tried various ways to take get his mind off the mystery. He and some of his friends, including Bishop Dwenger High School and Notre Dame teammate John Goodman, played basketball for two hours Wednesday night. Eifert and Goodman went golfing earlier in the day Thursday.
The mock drafts, which sometimes do indeed mock the players, had him as high has No.6 or as low as No.31.
“It was a little tough because you want to go as early as possible, but you want to be in a good situation,” Tyler said. “You have to balance the two.”
Eifert turned down a chance to go to New York City for the draft. “That's not him,” his mother, Julie, said.
“There have been a lot of people who have been instrumental in getting me where I'm at,” Tyler said. “I couldn't do it without a lot of people, and I was happy I could share it with them.”
Dozens of relatives and friends descended on the Eifert home, including friends and coaches from his Dwenger days. When the draft started, however, Tyler and his immediate family went to the master bedroom. “Just one of his agents, his girlfriend, his siblings and Greg and I,” Julie said.
It has been quite a day long before the draft, a day of anticipation and reflection. Charlie Weis, the coach who saw Notre Dame potential and more in Eifert, emailed Greg Eifert. “Congratulations. Well-deserved,” Weis wrote. Greg emailed Weis back, telling him the day would never have happened if Weis hadn't recognized Tyler's talent. That talent flourished further under subsequent Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Finally, Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher went No.1 to the Kansas City Chiefs and Eifert's real wait started. It would last over 2 ½ hours.
“At first, it was like excitement,” Greg Eifert said, “then all of a sudden, it became painful.”
The Jets chose Dee Milliner. Tennessee went another direction. The Jets were up again, but chose Sheldon Richardson. The Steelers? No call.
Goodman said it felt almost like the year former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn had waited and waited for his name to be called. Quinn stewed in New York. Eifert paced at home, far away from any television cameras.
The 49ers traded up, but didn't pick Eifert. The Giants? Maybe the Giants would pick him. They hopped the offensive tackle bandwagon.
Then came the Bears. A lot of analysts projected Eifert to the Bears.
But while the Bears were on the clock, Tyler Eifert's phone rang.
A couple minutes later, Goodman received a text message from his buddy who was huddling upstairs in the master bedroom.
“Bengals,” the text read.
“When he came down the stairs after he was drafted, I'd never seen him so happy or excited in his life,” Goodman said. “He was excited and giddy and ready to do it, excited to be a Bengal.”
The celebration continued into the night, punctuated by fireworks provided by some family friends.
“I don't think I've really comprehended it all yet,” Tyler Eifert said. “It's something that will change my life. I'm just excited for the opportunity going forward.”
Tyler joked that he maintained his usual calm demeanor but his parents did not. “I said, 'Let's have some composure here.' “
Julie Eifert had told Tyler that whatever team picked him, that would be where he was meant to go. They were to leave early Friday morning to travel to Cincinnati with Tyler to be formally introduced as the newest Bengal.
“When he signed with Notre Dame, I said 'If you go to Notre Dame and you just graduate from Notre Dame, that will be incredible,' “ Greg Eifert said. “ 'If you get to play at Notre Dame, that would be even more awesome. I just want you to graduate from Notre Dame.' And he took it to the next level.”
The next level arrived Thursday. Tyler Eifert met it at home, surrounded by the people he loves the most, as grounded as a first-round NFL draft pick could be.