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Greco speaks to County All-Stars

Posted Jun 14, 2012

BEREA -- Offensive lineman John Greco spoke with the East and West teams for the 2012 Cuyahoga County All-Star Football Game after their practices at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility Thursday evening.

BEREA -- John Greco was once in the shoes, or in this case, the football cleats of the young student-athletes he spoke with on Thursday evening at the team’s Casey Coleman Fieldhouse.

Greco spoke with the players from the 40th annual Cuyahoga County East-West All-Star Game and provided some advice from someone who grew up in Northeast Ohio and knew all about high school football tradition. Greco, a second-year Browns offensive lineman, grew up in Boardman, Ohio, and went to the same high school as Browns Legend, quarterback Bernie Kosar.

“It’s kind of a friendly reminder of where I used to be and you can tell how excited everyone is,” Greco said following the practice. “It just makes me happy for them, with the experiences they’re about to encounter. One day, they’ll look back and realize how special it was.”

After he played for Boardman High School, Greco went to the University of Toledo. Following his career with the Rockets, Greco was a third-round pick (No. 65 overall) of the St. Louis Rams in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Although he has played on the game’s biggest level, Greco has not forgotten where his football career started and the memories created under the lights every Friday evening in the fall.

“Every year you look back, you realize how big it was and I think no matter what level you play after high school, you go back and talk about it with your friends who you used to play with and share memories, so it’s an awesome time,” Greco said.

Over the past several years, the Browns have donated jerseys for the players to wear in the all-star game. This year, the organization again donated jerseys, pants and socks for the players to wear. All of the Browns players’ nameplates were removed from the backs of the jerseys and replaced with the 40th annual all-star game logo.

“It’s an honor, not only to have them at our facility, but to don our uniforms,” said Matt Yunker, manager of youth football for the Browns. “It looks great and hopefully, symbolizes our commitment to high school football.

“This is the last time they’re playing a high school football game. For the past four years, they’ve poured their hearts and souls into becoming better athletes, better students and better young men. Whether it’s taking away their game jerseys and taking it home with them or having their final practice at the Browns facility, it’s just a small part of what we can do to hopefully give them that positive final experience as a high school football player.”

The idea of a county-wide all-star game started in 1972 with Cuyahoga Heights coach Bill Jacobs. Through partnerships with the Browns and Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, the game has grown with every passing season.

This year, the Cuyahoga County East-West All-Star Game will be played at John Carroll University’s Don Shula Stadium.

“We’ve always felt there’s a strong connection between high school football in greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns,” said Larry Keller, chairman of the East-West All-Star Game. “That history, that camaraderie between the two levels of football can’t be denied. A lot of our players who play in the game, their families have season tickets. They’ve been to Browns games as youngsters with their dads and their uncles, so it’s a terrific connection for them to be able to wear the Browns uniform and to walk away with the jersey. That’s just absolutely phenomenal.”