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Chasing a Dream: Browns OL Spencer Drango following Joe Thomas' footsteps, overcame adversity first

When Spencer Drango arrived in Berea this spring, the rookie offensive lineman out of Baylor could hardly wait to join forces with Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

"I don't know who wouldn't be excited to go play with a guy like Joe Thomas, his accolades speak for themselves" Drango said before minicamp in May. "I'm really looking forward to getting to play beside him or at the same time from him and learn a lot from him."

Over the past few months Drango — who was drafted by the Browns in the fifth round — has gotten to do exactly that.

"His career speaks for itself and just being around him and seeing the type of person that he is off the field just makes me look up to him that much more," Drango said in a recent interview when asked about his favorite NFL player.

In the process, the 23-year-old has made a name for himself through offseason workouts and impressed Cleveland's coaching staff as the Browns prepare to reconvene for training camp on July 29

"I know Spencer Drango shows up every day," first-year head coach Hue Jackson said last month. "He's very competitive and I like him. I think he's getting better."

Offensive line coach Hal Hunter echoed a similar sentiment.

"Spencer Drango has come in and has kind of been a little bit of a surprise. He's been working the backup right tackle, picking up the offense good," said Hunter, who joined the Browns staff in January.

"He's a tough, competitive kid, fairly athletic. He's a four-year left tackle. We've gone to right tackle so we're getting his technique. He's gone in there and competed. He's still got a ways to go, but he's in there."

The Browns selected Baylor tackle Spencer Drango with the No. 168 pick in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.

Indeed, Drango — a two-time unanimous All-American, the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and Outland Trophy finalist — finds himself competing for playing time and learning from the likes of Thomas, guards John Greco and Joel Bitonio and Cameron Erving (who's taken first-team reps at center).  

But long before Drango's NFL dreams came true and getting the chance to shadow a player like Thomas — who's been selected to nine Pro Bowls in as many seasons — he spoke at the league's annual scouting combine of overcoming dyslexia when he was younger.

"The thing that I think people would find the most surprising about me is that I'm dyslexic and it's helped me overcome a bunch of different things, just from the adversity of that, trying to relearn how to read, relearn how to write and spell as a fifth-grader was difficult," Drango recently told

"But those lessons that I learned definitely translated to over to football and life in general."

So when Drango was one of 12 finalists for the 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy — which annually recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation — an already impressive accomplishment was that much more special.

"It proves that hard work and dedication pays off. Having dyslexia as a kid, no one ever thought – I definitely didn't think — I would be in that position," he told reporters at the combine in February.

"I've been very fortunate and blessed with the people that have been in my life to help me out. My parents have done an amazing job raising me and they're very supportive. They got me the classes that I needed to take to be able to overcome dyslexia and once I got rolling and learned how to learn again, everything kind of clicked and it was just a bunch of hard work. It was really cool coming from that background to be in a place like that." Perhaps the same could be said as Drango continues to make a strong impression in Berea.

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