He joined linebacker Clifford Charlton from 1988 and defensive lineman Gerard Warren in 2001 as the only Gators taken by the Browns in the first round. Haden is the 10th defensive back taken in the first round by the Browns, but the first since Antonio Langham in the 1994 Draft.
“I am just trying to soak it all up,” Haden said. “It’s crazy, just a dream come true. I feel like this is like a blessing.
“A lot of stuff I had heard had me going to the Browns,” he added. “It wasn’t really from scouts or anything at first, so I was like ‘How does everybody know that I’m supposed to be going to Cleveland? How is everybody so sure of that?’ It was kind of crazy because I didn’t think everybody knew really what they were talking about.”
When he was shown on television receiving the Browns’ phone call, Haden had tears in his eyes. During the call, Haden was told to smile by Browns coach Eric Mangini.
“He saw the tears coming out of my eyes,” Haden said. “It was just joy, tears of joy, just to finally be able to arrive and know that I’m playing for a team and know where I’m going to be because I just knew it was going to happen. I could see it.
“Before I got drafted you never really knew where you’re going to live, what team you’re going to, what situation you’re going to be in,” he added. “I loved Cleveland when I was there and I was just happy that they liked me enough to draft me. On the phone they told me ‘You’re on TV, so try and smile for us.’”
Over three years as a Gator, Haden intercepted 8 passes and forced 2 fumbles. He made 218 career tackles. In 2009, Haden registered 57 total tackles, 45 solo and had the only 3 solo sacks of his collegiate career.
Haden missed one game last season. His biggest game of the year came in a 24-14 win at South Carolina, when he registered 10 total tackles, 1 sacks and an interception, which he returned for a gain of 20 yards.
Haden was a unanimous All-American selection by the American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award a first time All-Southeastern Conference selection.
He achieved all those hallmarks of a good collegiate player while handling the responsibility of defending the opposing team’s best wide receiver.
“There’s always pressure when you’re out there on an island,” said Haden. “It’s just you versus him. At corner, you have to have a one track mind and a short memory.The one thing that I try to do is I definitely put pressure on myself. I’m my biggest critic.
“When I’m out there, I know that I have to have a lot of film study and a lot of just knowing what is going on and I have to be really comfortable,” he concluded. “That’s one thing that makes me a whole lot more comfortable when I’m out there, because I like to study film, I like to know what is going on before it happens.”