Nestled comfortably on the couch Saturday inside his mother’s Hopkinsville home, West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy, surrounded by no more than 20 of his closest friends and family, kept his eyes glued to the flat-screen TV positioned in the center of the living room.
As younger members of the family played video games and older members told jokes, Tandy sat calmly, periodically replying to text messages from friends.
What was on the TV? Coverage of the third and final day of the NFL draft.
Tandy, a former three-sport star at Christian County High School and a two-time first-team All-Big East performer for the Mountaineers, was projected by many draft experts to be selected between the third and fifth rounds.
After watching the third round come and go Friday night, Tandy knew Saturday, when rounds four through seven would occur, was the day his life would change. But to him, at least on the surface, the day was no bigger or more valuable than any other.
“That’s the way I’ve always been — not showing too much emotion,” he said. “I guess when I get on the field, that’s kind of my way of letting it go.”
At 12:09 p.m., just more than an hour after the start of Saturday’s draft coverage, Tandy took his eyes away from the TV to glance at his ringing cell phone.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on the other end.
“That was the (defensive backs) coach (Ron Cooper),” Tandy said. “He called me and was like, ‘Keith, I’ve been really pushing for you, trying to get you. We came in on you late, but I’m putting you down. I’ve already turned your name in to (head coach) Greg Schiano and he already knows you. Be patient.”
Tandy was just that.
He watched the fourth round end without seeing his name, and then saw Tampa Bay select his college teammate and roommate, West Virginia linebacker Najee Goode, in the fifth.
At 2:48 p.m., Tandy’s phone rang again.
Tandy’s mother, Joyce Jordan, motioned everyone in the room to quiet down. This was the call Tandy and his family had been waiting for.
“First of all, he was like, ‘This is Coach Greg Schiano,’” Tandy said. “He was like, ‘You probably know me because I know you very well. I figured since I can’t beat you, I might as well join you. He said, ‘Get ready because it’s about to come on the screen now. We’ve already turned your name in.’”
Schiano, who was hired in January as Buccaneers head coach, held the same position at Rutgers, a Big East rival of West Virginia, for 11 years. Schiano and the Scarlet Knights never beat the Mountaineers while Tandy and Goode were there.
After drafting Goode with the fifth pick (140th overall) of the fifth round, Schiano selected the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Tandy with the fourth pick (174th overall) of the sixth.
As Tandy’s name flashed on the screen, a loud burst of excitement and relief bounced off the walls of the room. Tandy was a Buccaneer.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. Being that I had to wait so long, it makes the day that much better.”
Tandy and Goode, the former college roommates who met as freshmen and ended their college careers in January by leading West Virginia to a 70-33 Orange Bowl win against Clemson, will be roommates again this summer when Tampa Bay opens training camp.
“That’s real big,” Tandy said. “It makes the transition easier.”
Jordan, who admitted she was secretly praying that her son was drafted by a team in a city with a warm climate, yelled out, “I went from being a Colonel to a Mountaineer to a Buccaneer,” shortly after Tampa Bay drafted her son.
Jordan said she’s proud of what Tandy has accomplished on the field, but said she’s more proud of the work he has done off of it.
Tandy, a straight-A student throughout his career at Christian County, earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic and investigative studies at West Virginia. He was a mentor for the Boys and Girls Club, spoke to Morgantown, W.Va., elementary schools and football camps about the importance of education and being drug-free, and visited patients at the West Virginia University Children’s Hospital.
“I’m very proud, very proud of my son,” Jordan said. “He’s just always made me proud. I’ve always said support your children and do what you can for them. That’s just what you do. That’s what I do. And it’s paid off.”
Tandy will fly to Tampa on Thursday.