Ashton Grant had no choice but to get used to only getting five hours of sleep each night.
Grant, who joined the Browns as part of the Bill Willis Coaching Fellowship in 2020, was needed at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus by 6 a.m. every morning during the season to help prepare documents, PowerPoints and whatever else Browns coaches needed each day. Then, he'd help them conduct practice, review film and carry out any other tasks needed to prepare the team for game day.
More documents, more PowerPoints, more spreadsheets.
Grant often didn't leave the building until 10 p.m. and wouldn't fall asleep until 11 p.m. By 5 a.m., his "alarm" — an Amazon Alexa device that played songs by Drake, one of Grant's favorite artists — was waking him back up.
And he did it nearly seven days a week from training camp through the end of the season for two years with the goal of becoming a full-time coach in the NFL.
"All of us work our tails off in here," Grant said. "I was hoping there would be a (coaching) spot open at the end of it, but I never assumed there would be."
Grant's hard work was recognized in the way he hoped last month.
The Browns hired Grant as their offensive quality control coach, a move that surprised no one in the coaching staff. Grant worked with multiple position groups as a fellow and was just as knowledgeable of head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense as anyone else on staff, so it was a natural fit for him to join them in full capacity after his fellowship ended at the end of the 2021 season.
"We went through a really stringent process to find a good young coach when we hired Ashton, so we felt really strongly about bringing him on," Stefanski said. "He's done an outstanding job the last two years. He's made great, great strides as a coach and taking advantage of all the resources we have here, so he's earned the role as the offensive QC, and we're really looking forward to his continued development."
Grant's transition from a fellow to a quality control coach figures to be an easy one, although that doesn't mean the work itself will be easier — much of the daily tasks of his QC role will include the same preparational jobs Grant was already doing. Over the next few months, he'll be in charge of building paper copies of the playbook and organizing slideshow presentations for rookies and players when they arrive back to Cleveland for offseason workouts.
He'll also be one of the coaches in the tight ends room. He and T.C. McCartney, a previous offensive assistant who was recently named the tight ends coach, will lead the position, which will be Grant's third position group he's focused on in Cleveland. He worked with running backs coach Stump Mitchell in 2020 and wide receivers coach/pass-game coordinator Chad O'Shea in 2021.
McCartney has been a huge resource already for Grant, who called him his "go-to guy" for all questions regarding his role in the last two years.
"A lot of our work coincided with one another," Grant said. "I was always going into his office. He was the one who really helped me pick up the offense. We have such a great connection and rapport."
Grant, however, primarily has a wide receiver background and played the position in college at Assumption, where he posted the most receiving yards (3,204), most touchdown receptions (36) and touchdown receptions in a single-season (13 in 2016) in school history. He also played in the Alliance of American Football with the Salt Lake Stallions and participated in training camps with the Chiefs and Bears.
That receiver background also led Grant to coach the position in February in the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he had an opportunity to further his development as a coach and also evaluate some of the prospects available for the 2022 NFL Draft. Grant was one of four Browns coaches who were on a coaching staff for the game, and that gave each of them an opportunity to build connections and scout possible players the Browns might be interested in drafting.
"You get eyes on them before everyone else across the league," Grant said. "You can sit down in the room with them and see what it would be like if they were in our facility. It's cool to see their practice habits and stuff that doesn't always show up on game film."
Grant officially stepped into his quality control role when he arrived back in Cleveland. His reaction to Stefanski telling him the news was the same as when he learned he'd be a Bill Willis fellow for the Browns two years earlier — he was budding with excitement, but he knows there's plenty of work to be done.
"The hard work paid off, and the guys in the building saw that same value that I saw in myself," he said. "It's not like I can kick my feet up. I have to keep working twice as hard now."