Antonio Callaway knows general manager John Dorsey and the Browns took a risk by drafting him last weekend. The former Florida wide receiver and fourth-round pick wants to prove they didn’t make a mistake.
“He told me he believed in me and I can do the right thing,” Callaway said Saturday before the team’s rookie minicamp practice. “I’m not going to let him down … I’m just not going to let him down.”
Callaway, who was considered a first-round talent by some NFL Draft analysts, watched his draft stock dip because of off-field concerns, including a season-long suspension for his involvement in a credit card fraud scheme. He chalked up those past transgressions as a combination of poor choices and immaturity. “I was just living in the moment,” he said. “I had to grow and learn from my mistakes. I’m past those.”
When Callaway reported to the team’s facility, head coach Hue Jackson and general manager John Dorsey sat down with him and laid out their expectations. They didn't mince words.
“We both sat down with him and had a very up front, candid conversation with him. I think he knows that he has our support and that we are going to do anything and everything that we can to assist him off of the field first to make sure that is right, and that we have no tolerance for things that are not becoming of the Cleveland Browns,” Jackson said Friday.
“We’re not going to dabble into any of that. I think he got that message loud and clear. I think he’s up to the challenge. Our job to assist him each and every day, every opportunity we can and help him be a good teammate and a good football player.”
The Browns believe they have the infrastructure — citing the club’s coaching staff and player-engagement program — to support Callaway both on and off the field.
Callaway has also taken steps toward staying on track. In recent months, he connected with Steelers star receiver and fellow Miami native Antonio Brown, who’s served as something of a mentor and attended Callaway’s draft party in South Florida.
Callaway said Brown told him he has “too much talent to let it go to waste. Where we’re from, Miami, Florida, people rarely make it out. I’m one of the few is blessed to say that I have been drafted by the Cleveland Browns.”
Callaway grew up in a rough neighborhood and played for Booker T. Washington High School’s powerhouse football program. The oldest of four siblings, he was raised by a single mother and, from the time he was young, believed football could lift him and his family out of that situation.
“You sit and meet with individuals, and then you begin to understand who they are as people,” Dorsey said. “If you sit there and understand his situations and his life story, you can see a guy who strives – he actually loves the game of football – but he likes structure and he likes routine. You can see that there’s a degree of humility with this person. You have to do your risk tolerance and say, ‘OK, where are we here?’ I thought that this was the appropriate level to make a move like this.”
Callaway, who has a three-month-old daughter, Aulani, knows the Browns expect him to meet their standards on and off the field.
“I already know what I have to do,” he said. “I have to provide. I have to stay focused.”