The offseason is almost over -- but not before the Browns land in the national view one more time.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is the subject of ESPN the Magazine's July cover story, written by Mina Kimes and released Wednesday.
The wide-ranging, well-written feature covers Mayfield's rise from unheralded walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner to second-string rookie to sudden star in Cleveland, a run that spanned just two and a half years. But Kimes dives deeper than most, tackling Mayfield's incorrect public perception of an immature signal-caller that followed him all the way to the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and illustrating how such a view couldn't be more inaccurate. She also covers Mayfield's childhood as a shy student who lived to please those in charge and his growth into an all-or-nothing type of competitor.
Kimes sprinkles in anecdotes to illustrate the many layers of Mayfield, from how he pursued his eventual wife, Emily (he pestered her via Instagram), to his unflappable confidence and burning desire to be the one to turn around professional football in Cleveland. And there's also the common thread that brings Mayfield and head coach Freddie Kitchens closer than the average coach-quarterback pairing:
Mayfield might not care about being misunderstood, but many of the people in his orbit seem determined to set the record straight on the divide between his public and private personas. "My perception was a lot like everybody's -- that he was kind of an outlandish, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kinda guy," says Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, who was coaching the team's running backs at the start of last season. "What I found was somebody totally different." As Kitchens got to know the rookie quarterback, he identified parallels in their journeys. "At the core of everything is the fact that he's always been told no: You can't do this. We're looking for someone else. You're not this," he says. "I think we have that in common."
Mayfield participated in a photoshoot for the cover, which produced these gems: