SPRING GROVE – The 15-year-old truck parked outside Your World Fitness on Saturday afternoon was – at least for now – the only outward evidence C.J. Fiedorowicz’s life is in the midst of changing.
The red 1999 Dodge 2500 Cummins diesel was purchased eight days before the Houston Texans selected Fiedorowicz with the 65th overall pick of the NFL draft on Friday night. Although it doesn’t exactly scream NFL rookie, Fiedorowicz drove past the truck at a small car lot in Crystal Lake three times and decided he had to have it.
It’s the truck that will transport the Johnsburg native and former Iowa tight end to Houston later this week when Fiedorowicz reports for the Texans rookie mini-camp. On Saturday – less than 20 hours after he was drafted – the reality that Fiedorowicz is now officially an NFL player was just starting to sink in.
Between the time he left his draft party Friday night and when he woke up late Saturday morning after only about five hours of sleep, Fiedorowicz had 200 text messages waiting for him. They came from classmates and former teammates along from Texans tight ends coach John Perry, congratulating him on a day he characterizes easily as the best of his life.
But as far as exactly how life-altering being drafted will be, Fiedorowicz said, likely won’t hit him for a while.
“I’m still in Johnsburg, still kind of doing the same things I was doing before,” Fiedorowicz said. “But I think once I start making that drive down there, see everybody and see the competition, I’ll start realizing it.”
Fiedorowicz knows there will be changes. He will likely add to his collection of six tattoos that he started his freshman year at Iowa. He hasn’t settled on a design yet, but he will look for something that complements the images that include a dreamcatcher, a lion and the ink job that covers his left biceps and that sits atop the scripted words “Family First.”
Fiedorowicz learned Saturday morning he will wear No. 87 for the Texans after his college jersey number (86) and his high school number (88) were both spoken for. Fiedorowicz’s agent, Jack Bechta said in a text message Saturday afternoon that details of Fiedorowicz’s rookie contract have not yet been worked out.
But if they are anything like Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who was drafted in the third round last year, Fiedorowicz will find himself dealing with instant wealth. Last year, Kelce agreed to a four-year, $3.13 million dollar deal that included a $700,000 signing bonus.
“I don’t even know what that kind of money looks like,” Fiedorowicz said. “When I see that first check, I’ll probably just want to frame it.”
Fiedorowicz said he will speak with Texans officials this week more specifically about what his role will be. Coach Bill O’Brien told reporters Friday in Houston that he sees Fiedorowicz as a blocking tight end – something that he and Texans general manager Rick Smith said stuck out when they worked Fiedorowicz out privately.
“When you talk about offensive football, you need to be able to block the edge if you’re going to run the ball effectively,” Smith told reporters. “We feel like this young man has the chance to help us to do that.”
Fiedorowicz will spend his remaining days in Johnsburg returning to workouts and preparing for his first NFL rookie mini-camp. He said now is not the time to let things slip after he worked so hard to put himself in the position he finds himself in now with the Texans. His work ethic, he said, won’t change, nor will his personality no matter what life as an NFL rookie has in store for him.
Never one to showboat, Fiedorowicz said he will have to come up with a new touchdown celebration after the NFL banned players from dunking the ball over the crossbar. It’s a move Fiedorowicz first used during his Johnsburg playing career, when he drew a penalty for a celebratory dunk.
“I’m just going to have to find something new,” he said.
What won’t be new, though, is how Fiedorowicz goes about his daily life, albeit now as an NFL rookie.
“He’s so humble,” said Fiedorowicz’s mother, Lee Ann, who ordered four Texans No. 87 jerseys from a local sports memorabilia store Saturday morning. “He’s family. He’s Johnsburg.”