BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Day 2 of the NFL Draft always has a special feel to it because that’s when the Cleveland Browns introduce the haul from the previous night in round 1, and all the optimism that comes with their arrival comes to the forefront.
This year it was the trio of Myles Garrett (No. 1), Jabrill Peppers (No. 25) and David Njoku (No. 29).
Their first 2 picks will be counted on to become stalwarts for new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the third selection Thursday night replaced Gary Barnidge, who was released on Friday.
“I took a (pre-draft) 30 visit here and I fell in love with it,” Njoku said of the Browns and city of Cleveland.
Some pundits questioned Garrett’s love of the game. Friday afternoon he wasn’t shy about expressing why football is the centerpiece of his other passions that include paleontology, poetry and art.
“I love to hit. I love to hit, and I love to compete,” Garrett said. “Those two things combined, that’s why me and him (Peppers) are sitting by each other.”
Being a No. 1 pick comes with a lot of attention, criticism and expectations – all of which the defensive end from Texas A&M is more than ready to deal with.
“I have some pretty lofty goals for myself,” Garrett said. “I do not really listen to anyone else’s expectations. I keep myself grounded with my family and my friends. They also help me keep my head straight and keep focused. I am not worried about a mistake or a negative comment anybody else wants to make. I have the best I could ever dream of right now. If I could just maintain my focus and keep working hard on the field, it will stay that way.”
Peppers, who has the ability to contribute in all 3 phases – as a safety, returner and running back-receiver, hopes to reward the Browns’ faith in him after submitting a diluted sample at the NFL Combine during a drug test.
“They know that I am a high character guy. I don’t have any off-the-field issues,” Peppers said. “I have never failed a drug test in my life and never been arrested. If a dilute sample was my worst hiccup in my whole life, I will take that on the chin. But definitely, definitely a sense of gratitude to them just because they believed in me with all of the negative going on and believing in my play.”
Garrett and Peppers hope that together they’ll be able to inflict a lot of pain on opponents for years to come.
“It’s going to be a sight to see,” Peppers said with a smile as he looked to his right at Garrett.
That’s music to many ears after watching the Browns fail to stop anybody last season, which ended up as the worst in franchise history.
“I probably hate losing more than I like winning,” Peppers said of his competitive spirit.
The Browns have won just 4 games the last 2 years and the 3 are being counted on to serve as the foundation of the rebuild for a franchise that has fallen into disrepair and become the laughingstock and punching bag of the NFL since returning as an expansion club in 1999.
Finding a way to turn the losing into winning has been as elusive as finding a franchise quarterback but Garrett knows where the turnaround must begin.
“Culture and attitude,” Garrett said. “It is changing what people are thinking of, having an attitude of everyone having us down and saying that we might be 0-16 or 1-15 and that nothing is going to change. But they brought in playmakers and guys who have that attitude of things will get changed right away.
“We are going to change things right away and that we can win and we will win.”
Peppers hopes to celebrate many big plays in the Browns’ secondary but he won’t be breaking into an O-H-I-O chant anytime soon even though he is excited about playing in Buckeye country.
“I am not really worried about the Buckeyes,” Peppers said. “I am happy to be a member of the Cleveland Browns organization. I am not really into all the little petty stuff. I never was.”
Njoku will fit in well as he is reunited with a one of his former college teammates – running back Duke Johnson. He also knows cornerback Tracy Howard, who signed last year as an undrafted free agent with the Browns but was released in April before being claimed by Jacksonville.
“I am pretty close with Duke and Tracy Howard,” Njoku said. “Tracy visited the Miami campus more often so I would see him more often and he told me that I would love the city if I do end up here. When I told him I was going to visit he told me, I was going to love it here, the people here are great, the fans are very loyal and I will have a great time. It’s funny because I had a gut feeling that I was going to be here and I ended up here.”
He wasn’t the only one.
“I had a feeling, too,” Garrett said laughing.