ROCKY RIVER —Besides playing nose tackle for the Browns, Danny Shelton was doing what Danny Shelton does best on Thursday morning.
As part of the entire team's trip to volunteer for the Cleveland Browns Foundation's annual golf tournament — which has raised more than $2.8 million since its inception in 1999 — at the Westwood Country Club here, Shelton and teammates either hit the links or played host to the Dawg Pound Games, a series of field activities that ranged from catching footballs to tossing water balloons.
Shelton — the 2015 first-round draft pick who's expected to play a key role for Cleveland's defense next season — was part of the latter group and a fan favorite at that, running around with the kids and putting smiles on their faces.
"We did a little dodgeball, too," he said. "That's what got me sweaty."
The Browns were out in full force as part of a giving-back mentality stressed by Hue Jackson, who concluded OTAs early in order for players and coaches to volunteer around the community instead.
"I think it's very true in my heart that our guys need to see how much — and how very much — it's important to me that we're involved in the community — this is ours," he said.
And while members of the Browns have been actively involved in Northeast Ohio — an especially large number of players visited University Hospitals' St. John’s Medical Center in April and second-year center Cameron Erving surprised a local teenager by taking her to the prom last month — the golf outing was something of an exclamation mark when it comes to that approach.
"At the end of the day, we are huge role models for so many young kids and so many adults in this community," Jackson said, "and I think this is our way of giving back and being able for everyone to see that we're all in and it's very important to our football team, very important for our staff, that we handle this the right way."
In some ways, Shelton has embodied that sentiment as much as anybody on roster and taken it all to heart.
"Honestly this is just like another opportunity to give back, just really looking back and reminiscing on your time as a kid and looking up to football players, wishing that you could meet them. I was that kid," he said of the golf outing.
"So for me to be able to do this and get this opportunity to come out here, it means everything. Just to kind of relive my childhood dreams."
Whether it's leading a makeshift zumba class as part of the the Browns' First and Ten Movement and PLAY 60 campaign, signing shirts, passing out high fives and hugs or visiting an elementary school to talk about the importance of eating breakfast, Shelton said the golf outing "was the same feeling as every community event. I wanted to come out here and give it my all really."
"The kids brings out another side of me. Me just sweating — you can see that easily — I have a passion for this to make sure these kids are having fun but at the same time they're learning," he said, "whether it's getting 60 minutes of activity or me talking to them about getting good grades in school. This is really just another day."
Shelton, who once spoke of his Samoan culture having an influence on his desire to reach out to people of Cleveland and be something of a role model, said the coaching staff has helped reinforce that belief.
"I really, really have enjoyed these past couple of months with coach Hue and the coaching staff, just the philosophy that he lives by — bringing that energy every day, knowing that we're trying to win and when you take that into your daily life, trying to win in life, the sky's the limit really," he said. "That's something that I learned back in highs school, to be coachable, to be able to buy into someone's system and that's what I've done with coach Jackson.
"I let him know with my actions and my words that I'm buying into the system (on and off the field), and I'm ready for a change in Cleveland."