CLEVELAND — A two-year project to renovate football fields across Northeast Ohio is almost complete.
The Browns broke ground Tuesday afternoon at John Marshall High School, the fifth of five Cleveland Metropolitan School District sites to receive synthetic turf made possible by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
And the team's entire rookie class — including first-round picks Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku — were on hand to see for themselves the work being done in the Cleveland community.
"This is an awesome experience for all of us really, starting to connect ourselves to this community," quarterback DeShone Kizer said. "Obviously we're new and really don't know much about it, so when you get a chance to come out it's awesome. It hits close to home knowing that we've all been youth football players in the past."
The fields at John Marshall and John Adams High Schools, which started their makeovers this spring, are set to be finished by the upcoming football season. Last year, the Browns helped renovate Roye Kidd Field, James F. Rhodes Field and Bump Taylor Field before the fall.
While the project takes aim at helping CMSD fight the problem of chronic absenteeism (if students want to participate in sports/extracurricular activities, then they have to come to school), these state-of-the-art fields also become something of a center for everyone in the community.
"This is just a tremendous gift," CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said. "This is not only a football field, but it's an athletic classroom."
As he surveyed the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking and smiled for photos, defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi said Tuesday offered an opportunity to see a broader picture.
"We understand it's bigger than just us," he said. "Everybody brags about Cleveland and its community it's always about the people, the fans, how much they love you and how much they take care of you."
"And you get to see that every time you come out here, they talk to you. The kids going up and hugging you, having no idea who you are," Ogunjobi continued.
"But just to put in perspective it makes you realize this is way bigger than just the Browns and to be able to give back to a community that loves you so much makes you want to win even more."
The rookies attended the ground breaking at John Marshall High School - the 5th of 5 synthetic fields in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District installed through a gift from the Cleveland Browns.
The Cleveland Browns are committed to assisting the development, safety and growth of youth and high school football throughout Northeast Ohio with year-round programming for players, coaches, officials and parents. Through camps, clinics and other initiatives, the Browns' goal is to promote healthy, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of youth by enhancing opportunities for youth football participation and education.
As part of Browns Give Back, the Browns are continuing their commitment to #give10 through the team's signature First and Ten volunteering campaign during the offseason after engaging the community throughout the season each Tuesday on the players' day off.
Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign was established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. Fans are encouraged to share how they give back in their communities by tagging their stories #give10 on social media.
About the Cleveland Browns and Browns Give Back:
The Cleveland Browns give back to Northeast Ohio with a commitment to education and youth football while engaging the community through the team's signature First and Ten volunteer movement. For more information, visit www.clevelandbrowns.com/community.