Top of the draft
Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver is projected as a potential first-round pick in this weeks' NFL Draft. The most recent Buffaloes selected in the first round:
No. 17 — Nate Solder, OT, New England Patriots
No. 27 — Jimmy Smith, CB, Baltimore Ravens
No. 32 — Tyler Brayton, DT, Oakland Raiders
No. 21 — Daniel Graham, TE, New England Patriots
No. 10 — Chris Naeole, OG, New Orleans Saints
No. 27 — Rae Carruth, WR, Carolina Panthers
For Isaiah Oliver, the dream of playing in the National Football League was born not long after he was in the fall of 1996.
"I would say it started immediately, right when I really started playing football, when I was 5 or 6 years old," Oliver, 21, said this week. "I always had dreams of playing in the NFL; watching the games on TV, going to some games. It was something I knew I wanted to do and I was going to work for it."
The dream is nearing reality, as the former Colorado cornerback awaits the upcoming NFL draft, which takes places Thursday-Saturday.
Oliver and several other Buffaloes have spent months training for the draft.
"There's not really much else that needs to be done," Oliver said. "I'm just waiting on draft day now. So, you get a little antsy and a little anxious, but it's definitely been a good process."
While the draft process began when CU's season ended last November, Oliver has been preparing for years.
Like his father, Muhammad, Oliver was an exceptional cornerback and decathlete in college. Muhammad, who went to Oregon, was then drafted by the Denver Broncos in the ninth round of the 1992 NFL draft and played five years in the league.
"Obviously, having my dad play there, he was able to help guide me to do the right things and make the decisions that put me in the best position to achieve that goal," Oliver said.
Oliver's uncle, Damon Mays, also played in the NFL, so he's had plenty of guidance.
During his years at Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Oliver realized he might have the tools to get to the NFL.
"When I got to Colorado, it just magnified all those things," he said.
Oliver played immediately as a true freshman in 2015, in a secondary that included Kenneth Crawley (now with the New Orleans Saints), Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas Cowboys), Ahkello Witherspoon (San Francisco 49ers) and Tedric Thompson (Seattle Seahawks).
Being around that much talent pushed Oliver, but it was the opportunity to work with CU head coach Mike MacIntyre — a respected defensive backs coach - that really furthered his development.
"I can't really put it into words, to be honest," he said when asked how much MacIntyre helped him develop as a cornerback. "A lot of what I was able to learn in terms of my technique and really playing the corner position came from him over these last three years. It was big for me. It's one of the biggest reasons I'm in the position I am now."
Most around the program figured that if Oliver had a great junior season, he'd leave early for the NFL. Sure enough, he was one of the top corners in the country last season, and less than a week after the season finale at Utah, he announced his decision.
"It kind of just came down to whether or not I felt ready to take that next step, and I did," Oliver said. "I felt physically and mentally ready to challenge myself against the best in the world."
That challenge is on the horizon, and Oliver could hear his name called as early as Thursday in the first round.
"It would mean a lot," he said. "Everyone dreams of playing in the NFL and being selected in the first round. Just being able to hear your name called on that first day and knowing a team pulled the trigger on you that early in the draft is kind of big."
The dozens of mock drafts on the web have Oliver going to a variety of different teams. He tries to avoid the pre-draft media coverage, preferring to get his information from his agent. Regardless, Oliver is now in the waiting stage.
"I've done everything I can possibly do to show teams what I'm capable of," he said.
Oliver will watch the draft at his parents' home in Phoenix, surrounded by the people that have supported his dream all along.
"It's now less than a week away," he said. "It's pretty surreal once you really think about it. I'm excited to find out what team selects me and where I'll be headed and be able to play some football."