CLEVELAND — Carlton and Angie Lance sat in the lobby of a fancy hotel in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon, April 28, discussing one of their sons and sounding much like parents of any other 20-year-old Minnesota kid who went to college at North Dakota State University.

They are proud of Trey, they said. They believe they've raised a good son. They just want what's best for him. They know Trey is going to have some rough patches, but they think he'll be able to navigate through them. They give him advice, which he sometimes does not like.

Carlton says he's not worried about what strangers are saying about Trey because it's just words.

Angie says her dander gets up when somebody questions Trey's character because she knows they've raised "a wonderful young man."

Which team do you think will choose former NDSU quarterback Trey Lance in the first round of the NFL Draft?

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  • San Francisco 49ers

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  • Atlanta Falcons

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They sound like any set of parents ready to see a child off into the world, confident in his abilities yet unsure exactly what the future holds. Because nobody knows for sure what the future holds.

Their son, Trey, could be an accountant, moving away from home for his first job.

Except he's not.

By 8 p.m. Thursday, Trey Lance will be one of the most famous people in America. He will be guaranteed fame and fortune — and all the good and bad that comes with those things — because he will be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. A quarterback, the spotlight will focus brightly on him because the fortunes of a franchise and its fan base will ride on the shoulders of his 6-foot-4, 225-pound body.

It is a remarkable position in which to sit, and yet Carlton and Angie seem like the same people from Marshall, Minn., they've always been. They seem like the same people who followed Trey when he played at NDSU for one full season, leading the Bison to an undefeated national championship season in 2019.

"This is Trey's life. This is Trey's journey. So I think that's why we can be at peace. We've always wanted four things for our kids — be faithful, kind, happy and healthy," Angie said. "He's going to be happy if he chases these goals. I think we're just really at peace with it."

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Not far from where the Lances sat, the NFL machine was cranking up in anticipation of Thursday's first round. The league built a massive, covered stage on the shore of Lake Erie, next to the 68,000-seat stadium in which the Cleveland Browns play. Workers were scrambling Wednesday afternoon to construct the fan-friendly NFL Experience that's expected to draw tens of thousands of fans to the lakefront.

Sometime Thursday evening, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will announce that a team has chosen Lance, and Trey will walk onto the stage, hug Goodell, put on a cap of the team that's staked its future on the quarterback and hold up a jersey bearing the No. 1.

It might be the San Francisco 49ers. It might be the Atlanta Falcons. It might be the Denver Broncos. It might be a team nobody expects.

Former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance answers questions from the media at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. David Samson / The Forum
Former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance answers questions from the media at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. David Samson / The Forum

Carlton and Angie will be in the "green room" adjacent to the stage, waiting to see Trey with about 10 other family members. About 30 friends and relatives made the trip to Cleveland to share in the big day.

Trey's parents say they don't know which team will select him. They've been given no inside information. They'll find out who drafted Trey when the world finds out.

"We don't know. It's bizarre. That has surprised me," Angie said. "Obviously, some guys know; there are some that are pretty clear. Beyond that, I don't think people know. We've been told to expect a lot of surprises tomorrow with trades and all kinds of stuff that could happen. We don't know."

The offseason has been particularly strange because COVID-19 canceled NDSU's fall season, the NFL combine and all the usual events prospects go through to prepare for the draft.

Trey declared for the draft in early October 2020, shortly after the Bison played Central Arkansas in their lone fall game. That was seven months ago. Carlton said it feels like three years because every day for Trey has been like Groundhog Day. Get up, train, take care of commitments, follow a schedule given to him by his team of agents and handlers.

"He's done everything he was supposed to do to the best of his abilities. He's taken advantage of everything," Carlton said. "He's done all the extra credit work. He's done everything that was asked of him by the teacher if you think of him as your student."

Like all parents, Carlton and Angie worried because their son went thousands of miles from home to prepare for his job. Trey went to Georgia and California to train, so his dad and mom had to put their trust in others to look out for their child.

Sometime Thursday evening, Trey's life and the life of his family will change forever. He already signed some endorsement deals, but once his name is called by Goodell he will be guaranteed millions of dollars. If Lance is chosen third, he's in line for a four-year contract worth $32 million. Even if he drops to ninth, his deal will be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million.

Angie and Carlton Lance said the last several months have been "overwhelming" as their son, Trey, has prepared for the NFL Draft after playing quarterback at North Dakota State University. Mike McFeely / The Forum
Angie and Carlton Lance said the last several months have been "overwhelming" as their son, Trey, has prepared for the NFL Draft after playing quarterback at North Dakota State University. Mike McFeely / The Forum

Is he ready for all that is to come?

"I think he's as prepared as he's going to be. A 20-year-old man who gets put into those situations, the only thing he can have is our guidance and letting him know what we feel," Carlton said. "We don't hold back on how we feel about certain things. He might not like to hear it, but we let him know, 'Hey, this is what I see. This is what you should do.' He's been very mature at taking that in."

With status and money comes scrutiny. Lance, the humble young man who was under-recruited at Marshall Area High School and turned into a top NFL prospect at NDSU, will be open to criticism of all kinds. Fair or not. Reasonable or vicious. The parents are prepared for that, too, and accept it as coming with the territory.

At least some of it.

"They can say whatever they want. Once he gets to the NFL, he's going to have a bad game. He's going to throw interceptions," Angie said. "However, when people start to question Trey's character, that's when I become extremely protective, because it's not fair. You're not going to find a better person. You're not going to find anyone who is going to stand up for you, whoever you are. Trey is a wonderful person. He is going to stand up for what he believes is right every single time. People don't always like that. We've felt that, unfortunately."

Carlton and Angie seem ready for what awaits. They say Trey is, too.

"I know we're at peace, and I know he's at peace with whatever happens," Carlton said.