JOHNSBURG – In the moments before his phone rang, delivering the news he had waited for all night, C.J. Fiedorowicz sat with a small group of friends and family members in a disco-themed bowling alley.
Earlier Friday night, Fiedorowicz mingled with well-wishers in the bustling bar area at Raymond's Bowl, watching as three tight ends were selected in the second round of the NFL Draft board. Unable to get much of a signal on his iPhone, the former Iowa tight end slipped away, hoping to find a little peace and quiet.
That's when his phone started buzzing.
"Hold on, hold on – my phone's ringing," Fiedorowicz told the small group of his former Hawkeyes teammates who piled into a white minivan and drove 3 1/2 hours from Iowa City Friday afternoon.
Fiedorowicz glanced at the Caller ID: Houston, Texas.
In that moment, he knew the wait was over.
The Texans selected the 6-foot-5 1/2, 265-pound Johnsburg native with the first pick of the third round. Fiedorowicz spoke on the phone with Houston general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien.
"I knew they were coming up and I knew they were interested," Fiedorowicz said. "I had a good conversation with Coach O'Brien when he came to work me out. But this is all crazy right now.
"It's exactly what I imagined – plus more."
Fiedorowicz was immediately mobbed by friends and former teammates in a celebration that spilled into a nearby hallway and continued until the Texans called for a second time. Moments later, with friends holding cellphone cameras over their heads to capture the moment, Fiedorowicz watched as the pick was announced on television, setting off another eruption of emotion.
For Ray Hamilton, who will be a senior Iowa and was Fiedorowicz's backup last season, the moment was worth making the trip over from Iowa on Friday afternoon after team workouts.
"It was just unbelievable for him to get that call," Hamilton said. "I can't explain to you the emotions I had. I can't even imagine what he was going through. But just to be here and see him get his name called after how hard he busted his butt, it's rewarding."
Fiedorowicz worked out privately for the Texans, who remained interested throughout the process as Fiedorowicz sold himself as dual-threat tight end after being used primarily as a blocker at Iowa.
On Friday night, he watched as three tight ends went in the second round a day after the draft's No. 1-ranked tight end – North Carolina's Eric Ebron – went to the Lions with the 10th overall pick. When Notre Dame's Troy Niklas went to Arizona late in the second round, the reality that his draft moment was coming soon hit Fiedorowicz.
"I'm next," said Fiedorowicz, who said he had spoken with agent Jack Bechta twice on Friday, but had no idea where or when he would be going.
Not much later, the Texans called, telling Fiedorowicz they would be choosing him for with their third-round pick.
"This is the best feeling in the world," he said. "I put in all this work...this is just unbelievable."
Fiedorowicz will report for the Texans' rookie camp next week as they start to regroup after last year's 2-14 finish. Fiedorowicz believes he'll be used effectively in the Texans' offense and looks forward to becoming teammates with the draft's overall No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney.
As emotional as Fiedorowicz was, the selection was just as big for his hometown of 6,300 residents. Among those at the party was Chris Leathers, who has been Fiedorowicz's trainer since Fiedorowicz was 16 years old.
Friday night's selection, Leathers said, was the payoff for years of hard work.
"He's earned this," Leathers said. "This wasn't given to him. He had this dream when he was a kid and he worked every single day for it. When no one was watching, he was working. So to see this happen is amazing."