In Kansas City’s Union Station music echoed off the tall ceiling and families gathered to see where their loved ones who were college football players would end up by the end of the night. The 17 players invited to the NFL Draft waited to hear their name called in hopes of being number one.
Long before any names were announced, the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard stepped onto the stage in front of the crowd as they presented the colors at the 2023 NFL Draft on April 27, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Staff Sgt. Michael Wolfe, a member of Echo Company (Honor Guard Company) 4th Battalion 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), was not only on this first high-visibility mission, but he was also the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) for the color guard.
“I am the Nationals bearer, so I will hold the American flag and I'm also the NCOIC,” said Wolfe. “I will be giving the commands for the whole team and making sure everything goes well, to put in easy terms.”
The team represented the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Space Force.
Even though the service members serve different branches of the military, coming together as one team to represent the DoD proved to be a seamless task.
“Thankfully, all the members of the team have been in their respective color guards for quite some time, and we work with them quite often,” said Wolfe. “We work with them enough where they all have a very good understanding of what right looks like and what to do. That sets us up for success to complete the mission.”
Seaman Kavy Granham, U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, like Wolfe, was on his first high-visibility mission.
As a former football player and football fan Granham said he screamed when he found out he was placed on the team headed to the NFL Draft.
Learning from those on the team is something Granham took advantage of while in Kansas City.
“Be open to learning [from others],” said Granham. “Make your brain a sponge. You’re going to be teaching somebody [eventually] and [will] pass the torch. So, keep your eyes and ears open.”
One of the service members that Wolfe and Granham had the chance to learn from was Sgt. First Class Mitchell Gribbroek, drummer for The United States Army Field Band.
Performing for the American Public is one of the primary missions of the U.S. Army Field Band.
“It's part of our mission in the Army Field Band to be visible,” said Gribbroek. “I went to school to be a performer. So, it’s always great to have large, appreciative audiences.”
The audience for Round One of the NFL Draft was 125,000 in person and 11.4 million viewers at home.
While these service members have presented the colors at many local and national ceremonies the nerves do not go away.
“I mean, obviously, there’s going to be a lot of people there,” said Wolfe. “So that has something to do with the nerve factor. Just making sure for myself and just for the whole team that we don’t cause a ruckus if you will [or] just not look as good as we should. That’s what I’m a little nervous about.”
Being able to fall back on all the practice done prior to the event is what Gribbroek said helps to calm his nerves.
“It’s just sort of relying on muscle memory if you’ve done something enough times,” said Gribbroek. “Even if your mind gets a little cloudy or distracted in the moment, when you have all that adrenaline flowing, hopefully, you’ll be able to just fall back on your muscle memory and do what you’re supposed to.”
After shaking the nerves off, the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard presented the colors with perfection and minutes later Bryce Young, the quarterback from the University of Alabama, got the call that he was the number one draft pick for the 2023 NFL Draft to the Carolina Panthers.