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Staples relishes chance with hometown team

Posted Jun 23, 2013

Outside linebacker Justin Staples has embraced the opportunity to play for the Browns, whom he dreamed of playing for when he was at St. Edward High School in Lakewood.

In the minutes following the 2013 NFL Draft, Cleveland native Justin Staples was given an opportunity he had always dreamed of, playing for his hometown team.

After going undrafted, Staples fielded a call from Cleveland Browns outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, and later signed with the team as a rookie free-agent.

“Growing up, as a kid, everybody wants to play for their hometown team,” Staples said. “I can’t say that I’ve met a single person that said, ‘I don’t want to play for my hometown team.’ Just the ability to be in this position is a feeling second to none. I will always remember that call I got from Coach Baker about 15 minutes after the draft.

“I did the locals workout here prior to the draft, and Coach Baker said he had a really good feeling about me, so if they have a chance to take me, they’re going to take me. Just knowing that he was being a man of his word and gave me the opportunity to play in my hometown is just a great feeling.”

Upon agreeing to terms with the Browns, Staples placed a call to his mother, Shelley, who was at work at the time. Sharing the news with his mother was a moment Staples said he will “never forget.”

“I had to tell her, ‘I hope you’re sitting down,’” Staples said with a smile. “She’s a flight attendant. I want to say she was flying to Denver or something like that at the time. She was keeping up with everything as much as she could. She was just waiting to hear back from me and she was definitely my first call. I almost went deaf from her screaming in the phone through excitement.

“She was on Cloud Nine, definitely.”

Once he placed the phone call to his mother, Staples quickly shifted his focus back to the football field. Two weeks after signing with the Browns, Staples was on the field for rookie minicamp, where he got his first opportunity to work alongside the team’s first-round pick, fellow outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, as well as Baker and defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Following the three-day rookie camp, Staples went through 10 organized team activity sessions and the mandatory minicamp, where coaches had the opportunity to work with players on the field and go over corrections from practice in the meeting rooms.

“It’s been going really well,” Staples said. “Coach Baker has really taken the time to make sure Barkevious and I are where we should be. In his own words, we’re excelling and we’re getting past the point of just thinking as rookies.

“We’re able to get the concepts a lot quicker than he was anticipating. With Barkevious coming from a great team like LSU, with me coming from Illinois, we were used to picking up things quickly. It’s really fortunate for me that I was coming out in a draft class when we were switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 because that fits my strong suits. It’s coming along well.”