Cedric Tillman and Dorian Thompson-Robinson are tapping into their high school roots as they begin to grow their pro ones in Cleveland.
Tillman, the Browns' third-round rookie wide receiver, and Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round rookie quarterback, both attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where they helped each other excel as seniors — Thompson-Robinson tossed 38 touchdowns and Tillman caught seven touchdowns that season — en route to earning Power 5 gigs in college.
After more success for Tillman at Tennessee and a few prolific seasons for Thompson-Robinson at UCLA, they'll reunite on the practice fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus this weekend for Browns Rookie Minicamp.
"It's been super cool ever since we both got the call," Thompson-Robinson said. "We've been throwing every day, trying to break down this playbook and learn it as best we can together, so that's helped."
The Browns' 2023 regular-season schedule has been released. Check out how the season unfolds with this photo gallery
An NFL reunion didn't appear likely when the duo was in college, particularly before their senior season.
That's because Thompson-Robinson was ahead of Tillman on the depth chart.
Thompson-Robinson didn't begin playing quarterback until later in his high school career and actually was a top receiver his junior year, catching eight touchdowns. Tillman, meanwhile, had two that season.
But then Thompson-Robinson moved full-time to QB his senior, which opened a spot for Tillman. The move that benefitted both players immediately and started their paths to playing in Power 5 conferences — and eventually becoming teammates again in Cleveland.
Thompson-Robinson chuckled and said Tillman would likely "hate me" for telling that story. He also admitted he thought he had the edge over him at wideout in high school.
"Cedric, we would say, was a little bit of a late bloomer," Thompson-Robinson said. "But once he got to Tennessee, he took off from a growth spurt, to the speed, to just everything you could ask for as a receiver. And you guys have obviously seen what he is now and he's gotten picked because of it.
"But starting out, though, I definitely thought I was better than him at receiver."
It didn't stay that way.
Now, Tillman has a chance to become an important piece of a Browns offense that is looking to boost its passing game with QB Deshaun Watson. The growth spurt Thompson-Robinson mentioned has led Tillman into a 6-foot-3 frame, which makes him one of the tallest players in the wide receiver room.
"I'm just going to try to look after those older guys and try to fall after them, but I definitely do think I bring something to the table my size, my ability, what I can do," Tillman said. "So just trying to make plays for this offense."
Thompson-Robinson will be able to help the pass game, too. As a backup to Watson, whom he's trained with a few times at UCLA, he'll have a chance to add input in the QB room and be a young voice for a Pro Bowl player.
"For me to be able to get comfortable with the offense before Deshaun and the rest of the vets get here I think will be huge for me," he said. "But going into training camp and preseason, I think I just want to make sure that I'm as comfortable as possible."
Sharing his first days in the NFL with an old friend should certainly help both of them achieve that goal.
"This isn't our first rodeo," Tillman said. "Just having that relationship with him is cool."