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Browns specialists share special bond born out of positional isolation

Britton Colquitt is the only happy person at FirstEnergy Stadium. 

He's pumping his fist as he trots off the field after a 47-yard punt, his second of the third quarter during a Week 13 matchup against Carolina. The Browns offense stalled for the third straight time (they fumbled earlier in the quarter), spurring him onto the field and the fans into a quiet restlessness. 

Colquitt, like everyone else, was rooting for the offense to keep him off the field. But once called upon, he flipped field position from the Browns' 28 to the Panthers 25. With an assist from his coverage team, Colquitt forced Kenjon Barner to call fair catch.

That's why he's pumping his fist as he runs off the field — he's proud of his success. Browns fans, on the other hand, feel no such excitement. They're waiting for the moment when their favorite punter — the other team's — trots onto the field. 

"That's the life of a specialist, especially a long snapper or a punter," Colquitt said. "You're appreciated at a not loud level when you do good. When you do bad, it's bad."

Colquitt, along with his locker mates long snapper Charlley Hughlett and kicker Greg Joseph, play lonely, unrecognized positions. They often practice by themselves, off to the side. Their teammates appreciate them, but interactions with the specialists don't occur as organically as with other teammates. 

Proper snaps, punts and converted kicks (game-winners excluded) don't invigorate the crowd like Baker Mayfield touchdowns or Myles Garrett sacks. Matter of fact, it's often the opposite when Colquitt trots onto the field. 

"No one's happy and half the time the stadium is booing when I'm running out there," Colquitt said. "So you don't wanna hit a bad one, 'cause then they'll just continue that boo. So it's definitely a different gig, ya know?"

Joseph faces the same standard of success as Colquitt in fans' minds: Don't screw this up. When Joseph makes field goals, the Browns scored three points they better have scored. When he misses, the fans' ire falls completely on him because it's rarely anyone's fault but his own. 

It's man vs. self every time Joseph lines up to kick, which can wear on the mind. 

"I don't think (kicking is) meant for everyone," Joseph said. "I think it takes someone that can handle pressure and thrives in pressure. But then also when you're not kicking, you need downtime in the league. I believe you need time to just be you and relax and not put pressure on yourself. Otherwise, it gets overbearing."

That's why Joseph, Colquitt and Hughlett sprinkle as much enjoyment into their jobs as possible. Sometimes that means Colquitt placing plush Cookie Monster toys on the top shelf of Hughlett's locker, a jab at Hughlett's love for the chocolate chip cookies in the Browns cafeteria. Or maybe Colquitt will leave a pack of crispy bagel bites and cream cheese for Joseph to enjoy when he returns from the shower, as he did Thursday. 

"He always puts random (stuff) in my locker," Joseph said. "I don't know why." 

That includes the bagel bites, sore throat spray and gummy worms. 

And of course, Joseph is assigned rookie duties. He brings Colquitt and Hughlett food and drives Colquitt to the DMV. Special teams coordinator Amos Jones joked Joseph isn't allowed to speak first in any conversation between the specialists (neither Joseph nor Colquitt would confirm this as a real rookie duty). Joseph also ran point on the Christmas card that the trio released, adding that the image would be recycled in future entertaining endeavors.

Colquitt isn't exempt from the razzing, either. When Hughlett saw Colquitt star in a local commercial midway through the season, Hughlett immediately shared the link in the specialists' group chat. In the commercial, Colquitt learns to perform the "floss," a dance popularized by the video game Fortnite, before apparently drawing electricity from the stadium lights with his punt, which lands out outside of the stadium.

Hughlett's evaluation of Colquitt's performance?

"That was probably one of the goofiest commercials I've ever seen," Hughlett said. "It came out much worse than I expected. It's so bad that it's good. You couldn't have done that any worse or better at the same time."

Just over 22,000 people have watched the commercial on YouTube, and it went viral on social media the same day it released. It's ironic in a way considering Colquitt operates zero social media accounts. 

Instead, he relies on his wife to show him funny videos from her accounts. He believes an active social media account can "expose" a specialist if they fail in an important game, like when Justin Tucker, whose tweets are seen by his 278,000 followers, missed a game-tying extra point against the Saints. 

Colquitt imagines fans cascaded Tucker with vitriol after the missed kick (they did), which is why he stays offline. Why sign up for an all-in-one-place extension of the on-field boos?

"If I had a bad game, I'm gonna get on social media, and all these people that follow me are gonna be like, 'You suck!,'" Colquitt said. "I don't want that. So It's kinda like it's something that people love, but it's also something that can hurt them. I'm not gonna deal with something that's gonna come back to bite me, you know what I mean?"

Hughlett likes to poke fun at Colquitt for considering himself the old wise man at age 33. He even jokes that Colquitt's tendencies would prevent the punter from being able to focus on his phone long enough to operate an account.

But Hughlett actually supports Colquitt's anti-Twitter stance. He follows suit, primarily using Twitter as a news source. He was reminded why Dec. 1, when Hughlett congratulated the University of Central Florida (his alma mater) on their conference championship win and posited that they deserved a playoff spot. 

"I was getting chewed up by frickin' Ohio State fans," Hughlett said. "I was like, this is why I don't tweet."

Joesph, the youngest of the trio, is unsurprisingly the most pro-social-media. He believes in Twitter's branding power and the endless possibilities that can accompany utilizing social media as a professional athlete. 

But during the season, he, too, limits his access. Joseph downloads the Twitter app each Monday and deletes it for the rest of the week, an act that accommodates his "downtime to be you" philosophy. 

"There's peace in disconnection," Joseph said. 

There's also strength in solidarity, which the three specialist locker mates embody. Joseph has absorbed every tip Colquitt and Hughlett have offered and every mannerism of theirs he's noticed; small things, like squeezing in a few on-field practice kicks during the period between regulation in overtime. 

But his sense of belonging and friendship trumps everything else Hughlett and Colquitt have taught their protege. The three loneliest positions on the field might share the closest bond. The specialists live in their own world. And that's what keeps them functioning. 

"It creates a sense of trust," Joseph said of the trio's relationship. "When you have a really good basis for it and pillars of friendship, you know what you need to do for them and what they're gonna do for you. They've helped me immensely."