Spencer Lanning stood in a dark field in upstate New York last Thursday. He was shivering from head-to-toe.
It was the third straight night Lanning braved the blustery minus-10 degree wind chills, but, by golly, Cleveland's whimsical punter was on a mission.
Strapped with a camera, Lanning gazed into the sky's abyss. Local meteorologists had predicted this night to be crystal clear, music to Lanning's ears.
Calling Lanning an astronomy enthusiast isn't giving him the proper justice.
He's got a state-of-the-art telescope back in Cleveland. He studies moon patterns like he does opposing punt returners. He casually talks about the constellations Orion and Taurus like they are the names of two local burger joints he frequents.
"The universe by itself is so infinite I can't even wrap my mind around it," Lanning said.
Don't mistake Lanning's passion for the galaxy as a reason to label him as another oddball punter. Lanning's sense of humor reaches from the locker room, to interactions with the sales staff on the second floor at the Browns' facility and even across the country on his Twitter account.
Lanning pokes fun at himself, like when Steelers return man Antonio Brown dropkicked him in the head, and he's playfully called out opponents, too.
"We call him the Senator," Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said, "because he gets along with everybody."
What's tickling Lanning's curiosity on this particular night is Comet Lovejoy. Discovered six months ago via a conventional telescope from an amateur Australian astronomer named Terry Lovejoy, the comet has a rare, green tinge to it as it glides through the night sky. Comet Lovejoy only comes around once every 8,000 years.
The timing of Lanning's trip to the Mariaville, New York area couldn't have been better. The 25-year-old was in the area with his fiancée Brittany to visit his future in-laws. Because the town isn't by bright city lights like Cleveland, Mariaville produces many crystal-clear nights. Lanning was going to get a clean look at Comet Lovejoy.
With his naked eye, Lanning spotted the comet and grinned. Unlike stars, Comet Lovejoy isn't completely round and has a glow to it. So Lanning fired up his camera and started shooting for 15 minutes straight. The tough part comes four hours after the comet disappears – stacking all the still images on top of each other, a process that eventually harvested this sublime snapshot.
The artwork of astronomy and even the ancient history of it kept Lanning coming back in the cold every single night until he captured the moment.
"To me, being able to look at the sky and see the same things that Greek philosophers and Galileo – that, to me, is extremely cool," Lanning said. "We will never see this comet again. Not for 8,000 years. This is history."
Whether it's for the Milky Way or pinning opponents inside the 10-yard line, one thing always remains true about Lanning: He's as passionate as it gets. Lanning takes so much pride in his role on the team, and because of that engaging personality, his importance as a teammate has grown.
Any time Connor Shaw felt nerves before his first ever NFL start against the Ravens, Lanning would be there to give him confidence, or make him laugh. The two played together at South Carolina, so Lanning's been looking out for Shaw since the quarterback's arrival to Cleveland.
"Spencer's the kind of teammate that would do anything for you," Shaw said.
Said Tabor: "Anything he jumps into, he's going to give 110 percent."
Warmer temperatures await Lanning in his native South Carolina, where he plans on spending the next portion of his offseason. There will be family bonding, relaxation and, of course, star-chasing.
"If you're solely focused on football 24-7, 365, you will sort of go crazy," Lanning said. "Astronomy, to me, is a great hobby that keeps me from playing video games all the time."