Austin Hooper didn't need to learn much about Baker Mayfield before he signed a four-year deal with the Browns in March.
Hooper was a fan of Mayfield's energy and style of play before he hit the free-agent market. He loved how Mayfield runs with running backs when they break off a big run. He loves how Mayfield always celebrates touchdowns with receivers. He loves how Mayfield isn't afraid to speak his mind.
He also, of course, loves how far Mayfield can throw a football.
"He has a real competitive fire," Hooper said Wednesday in a Zoom call with local reporters. "Those are the two deals that really made me want to sign here were Baker and just his style of quarterback – him being aggressive, has that swag with him, which I do want. I want to play for a quarterback who has that to them a little bit, and obviously, the arm talent is there. It was a really easy decision for me."
So when the Browns expressed interest in signing him, Hooper didn't need to be convinced about the quarterback. He knew Mayfield was going to be a great fit. He just wanted to know when he could see him for the first time.
Check out photos of the team working out Tuesday
Hooper reached out to Mayfield after he signed his contract and arranged a trip a few weeks later to Austin, Texas — Mayfield's hometown — for a workout. He wanted to mesh with his new quarterback immediately — both on and off the field — and Hooper soon learned that all the perceptions he had of Mayfield were true.
Now, after hundreds of offseason reps, Hooper is confident his on-field chemistry with Mayfield will already be fine-tuned in training camp.
"Especially in a super-condensed offseason and a super-condensed training camp format, banking those few hundred reps in my opinion has really helped us already," Hooper said. "I got in contact with him early on in the process so when I did sign, I already had an idea of where I'm going, who is my quarterback and what is he all about. I told him that I like to work and I like to do stuff in the offseason. He was more than ready and willing to do that."
That relationship should be special for Cleveland's offense.
Coach Kevin Stefanski plans to use tight ends heavily in his offense, and Hooper should have plenty of opportunities to produce after he became one of the most efficient tight ends in football in four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. With Matt Ryan as his quarterback, Hooper had 16 touchdowns and more than 2,200 receiving yards in Atlanta. Last season was a career year for Hooper — he caught a career-high six touchdowns and totaled 787 receiving yards, sixth-best among the league's tight ends.
Those numbers could soar even higher with the Browns. The first step toward doing that, however, comes with building on-field chemistry with the quarterback.
"That's just how it works between players, if I'm being honest," Hooper said. "You just want to get a feel for the person you are going to work with for years."
Hooper made two visits to Mayfield's home. The first trip came shortly after he signed his new deal. The second visit came after OTA activities were moved to the virtual offseason program, so Hooper made another trip to the Mayfield residence to compensate for the lost time.
In total, Hooper estimates he spent two or three weeks living in Mayfield's house.
"I had a good time with him on and off the field and just kind of got a feel for him, his personality, his wife, his family and his friends and just kind of really see Baker the person," Hooper said. "It was a good time."
The offseason visits should certainly pay off come Aug. 14, when the Browns begin their first full team practices of training camp. Hooper knows what to expect from Mayfield when he'll turn around and look for a pass. He might be on a new team, but he's not anticipating to see anything new from his quarterback.
So when Week 1 arrives, the game will feel simple to Hooper. He hopes to make it simple for Mayfield, too.
"Run routes, get open and catch the ball," Hooper said. "I'm sure that will help him out."