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2020 NFL Draft

Browns players reflect on their 'life-changing' Draft Day experiences

The phone rang, but the clarity was minimal.

Joel Bitonio knew he was getting drafted and he knew he was headed well east of his native San Pedro, California. Early in the second round of last year's draft, "BEREA, OHIO" popped up on Bitonio's cell phone, and he understandably had no idea where it was located in the Buckeye State.

"I was nervous, I didn't know where I was going to end up and then my phone rings," Bitonio said. "I'm like, OK, there's two teams in Ohio. I don't know where Berea is. I have no idea. I answered it and I'm pretty sure it was Ray on the phone. He's like, 'Hey Joel, it's Ray Farmer with the Browns. We're going to draft you.

"I'm like, 'let's do it.'"

Though the offensive lineman played like a first-round pick throughout his rookie season, he wasn't in New York City to hear his name called. His story is similar to most of the players drafted by the Browns, but at least one of the team's picks since 2008, when it didn't have any in the first round, has been forced to wait it out in the infamous "Green Room."

When Phil Taylor received the invitation to Radio City Music Hall for the 2011 draft, he was flooded with uncertainty. What if he didn't get picked? What if he was THAT guy?

His mother promptly changed his mind, and it was for the best. After trading out of the No. 6 spot, Cleveland nabbed the defensive lineman from Baylor at No. 21.

"She said you won't ever get this experience again," Taylor said. "And it was a life-changing experience."

Joe Haden had a feeling he might land with Cleveland, which held the seventh pick in the 2010 draft, but ESPN's cameras faked him out. Shortly after Seattle picked Russell Okung with the sixth pick, the group flocked to Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. Haden figured the network knew something he didn't and shifted his focus to Oakland, which had the eighth pick.

"I was just like, 'Dang, I'm not going to Cleveland. I thought I was,'" Haden said. "Then my phone rang and the camera crew ran over to me. It was cool. I was just overwhelmed with joy. I finally got drafted.

"All the work I did to make it to the league, it came true."

Spiller, for what it's worth, was picked two spots later at No. 9 to Buffalo.

Even though Bitonio wasn't in New York City, he didn't escape the demand that comes with being a highly coveted prospect. He looked back on the experience and joked about the "45 minutes of interviews" he endured shortly after his name was called.

Perhaps the only way to escape the spotlight is do what Joe Thomas did and go fishing on draft day.

"They don't tell you this," Bitonio said. "I'm just like, 'I want to celebrate with my family right now.'"

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