As the hours of the 2013 NFL draft slogged by, Tony Jefferson's emotions raced past confusion and despair.
“I was angry,” he says. “So angry.”
He had been a blue-chip high school recruit and delivered three productive seasons for one of the most prominent college programs in the country. Why, all of a sudden, did no one want him? Why wasn’t he drafted? He’d left Oklahoma early in anticipation of guaranteed NFL riches. Instead, he was hurtling into a void he’d never even fathomed.
“It was mind-boggling,” said his father, Tony Sr., who sat beside his son in the family’s San Diego home during the draft.
But Tony Sr., a heavyweight boxer turned preacher, had always...