ARLINGTON, Texas — When Edwin Mulitalo walked across the stage and sidled up to the podium, he wore a smile that beamed like the brightest spotlights and shiniest stars anywhere in AT&T Stadium.
“The Lord,” Mulitalo announced to the gathering, “works in mysterious ways.”
Mulitalo couldn’t disguise his glee as he announced the Baltimore Ravens’ third-round pick: Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown.
That’s because Mulitalo played in Baltimore with Brown’s late father, Orlando Brown Sr.
“In the world of coming full circle,” Mulitalo told The Franchise, “this is one of those times.”
Brown, a two-time All-American left tackle at OU, was the 83rd player picked overall and the 19th player chosen in the third round. Brown also was the second former Sooner selected after quarterback Baker Mayfield went No. 1 overall on Thursday.
“I’m just so blessed,” Brown said in an OU press release. “Just to be able to go back where it all started for me, the same building that I basically grew up in.
Brown was joined in Baltimore almost immediately by OU teammate and All-American tight end Mark Andrews, whom the Ravens picked up at No. 86.
“It’s just crazy to think that I’ve got the opportunity to play with Mark again and to be a part of a great franchise,” Brown said. “It’s hard to put into words. I’m just so incredibly blessed.”
“He’s an absolute competitor,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said in the press release, “one of the most competitive football players I’ve ever been around. He is a physical, nasty, tough player who is going to show up every day to work.”
Brown was widely projected as a first-round draft pick, but his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine raised red flags about his athleticism. His 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump and bench press were among the worst measurements ever posted by an offensive line prospect in Indianapolis.
But the Ravens clearly liked the game videos that distinctly showed Brown mauling opposing defenders.
“The tape is what we always go back to, especially with offensive linemen,” Ravens GM Eric DeCosta told Baltimore media. “How they play, that’s how they play. Offensive linemen don’t have to run 40 yards very often. When you see a guy consistently control his man, knock his man down, block to the whistle and protect the quarterback, what else do you have to see?”
With the NFL Draft now moving to different venues around the country, the league has asked ex-players to come in and make the announcements for their former teams’ draft picks. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell still announces the first-round picks, but Friday’s second and third round selections were revealed by legacy players.
NFL clubs make their decisions at team headquarters, then phone in to a representative on site at the draft. The team rep tells an NFL executive, who writes the pick on a card and then goes over the pronunciation and the player’s position and school with the former player announcing the pick.
Mulitalo was briefly concerned with a potential pronunciation hang-up. Then he saw his old friend’s name and suddenly had a different concern: he hoped he could hold it together.
“When I saw his name on the paper,” Mulitalo said, “it just brought a lot of memories back. I started thinking about ‘Zeus,’ and if he was here how proud he’d be. I know he’s looking down and is proud of his son, and hopefully he can continue his legacy.
“I was in a hyped mood, but I kind of got a little emotional thinking about that.”
“Big Zeus” — who went undrafted out of South Carolina State — played for the Cleveland Browns from 1993-95, then moved with the team to Baltimore and played with the Ravens from 1996-98. He went back to Cleveland when the Browns rebooted in 1999, and after a severe eye injury kept him out of action from 2000-2002, he finished his NFL career with the Ravens from 2003-05. In his nine-year NFL career, Brown played in 129 games and started 119.
During their three years together in Baltimore, Mulitalo played left guard, right next to hall of fame tackle Jonathan Ogden. Brown played right tackle, on the other side of center Mike Flynn and right guard Keydrick Vincent.
“We all were really, really tight,” Mulitalo said.
Orlando Jr., “Little Zeus,” projects as a right tackle in the NFL, the same position his dad played, on the same field, for the same team.
“It’s a great feeling,” Mulitalo said. “It was just a neat, neat thing.”
“Getting to play for the same franchise that my dad did, it means so much to me,” Brown said. “Just to be able to wear the same number that he wore — they told me that 78 is open — just to be playing tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, in the city I grew up in — I was born at Johns Hopkins — it’s crazy. Playing for the Ravens is something my dad predicted from when I was young, and now it’s here.”
Orlando Brown Sr. died in 2011 of diabetic ketoacidosis at the age of 40, when his son was 15 years old.
Just this month, Mulitalo was named head coach at Southern Virginia University, a Division III school in Buena Vista, Virginia. He said he only recently became aware that his friend’s son was a big-time college football player.
“I honestly didn’t know until they started throwing his name around his junior and senior year, and then you start thinking about that kind of thing,” Mulitalo said. “But you never think he’s gonna follow in his father’s footsteps all the way to the actual team. That had never crossed my mind.”
Now, Mulitalo expects he’ll soon attend a sort of reunion with a young man he’s never actually met.
“I’m excited,” Mulitalo said. “I’m gonna try to swing up there and watch some OTAs (organized team activities), now that I’m a head coach. So I’ll go up there and try to learn some things. And hopefully share some stories about his dad. We always want to do those kinds of things for our brothers that have passed on and left their family behind.
“I go back to Baltimore and do a lot of things, so I look forward to meeting him. All of us, Jonathan Ogden, I’m sure we all want to meet ‘Little Zeus.’ ”
“Big Zeus” stood 6-foot-7 and played at 360 pounds. “Little Zeus” is 6-8 and 345.
“ ‘Zeus,’ he was a warrior, man,” Mulitalo said. “He was a ‘dawg.’ But man, he had a lot of love, too.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.