AVON -- An autumn breeze warmly greeted 31 Cleveland Browns alumni at Avon Oaks Country Club on Friday to kick off this weekend's homecoming festivities.
Jim Brown, Hanford Dixon, Kevin Mack, Doug Dieken and Paul Warfield headlined the golf outing full of laughs, drinks and a putting challenge that stirred up competitive juices from the former NFL greats. On Saturday, the alumni will gather together at the Kardiac Club inside FirstEnergy Stadium for a luncheon honoring this year's Legends Club inductees, Don Colo and Bob Golic.
"You love days like this because these are the guys you went to war with," Dieken said. "We relive the stories of both the football games and our friendship -- some stories get new details as the years go on!"
The alumni's feelings about the Browns' play to begin the 2015 season was borderline giddy. Big plays on offense teamed with a roughneck defense and rocking home crowd is a winning equation.
"I thought it was fabulous because they came out with a lot of enthusiasm and energy," said former linebacker Frank Stams, who now serves as the Director of The First Tee, a youth organization in Akron. "Even though the third quarter got rough, the team had built a cushion with the lead. The play that Johnny (Manziel) made at the end, that's exactly what you want from your quarterback in the fourth quarter."
"I thought they would beat the Titans, I just didn't think it would be that decisive," said former cornerback Felix Wright, who now serves as an NFL uniform inspector before games Sundays as well as a financial consultant to athletes. "The big plays on offense need to continue."
Former defensive end John Thierry was thinking more about the big picture when quizzed about his thoughts on Cleveland's team.
"It really seems like the guys respect Mike Pettine a whole lot," said Thierry, who also played in Chicago, Green Bay and Atlanta. "This team is right there. Football is a game of inches. A string of wins together can change an entire season because when you lose, everybody is groggy and unhappy."
Throughout the day on the golf course, the alumni would swing around the clubhouse for a putting challenge on the practice green. Several came close to draining the daunting 35-footer that broke toward the right edge of the cup.
Only one golfer was able to sink the imposing putt: Frank Minnifield.
"I swear he cheated!" Dixon howled at his former tag-team cornerback partner as the morning turned into a rowdy afternoon.