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Chris Kirksey could be a big piece to the Browns puzzle in 2015


Nothing ever rattles Browns linebacker Chris Kirksey.

During last May's NFL Draft, instead of nervously fretting on the couch like many of his football peers do, Kirksey nonchalantly went shopping at the mall, like it was a run-of-the-mill Friday.

A good friend accompanied Kirksey, urging the linebacker to splurge on a fancy watch or some jewelry because the Iowa product would soon be in the NFL. The modest Kirksey settled on a pair of shoes.

When he arrived at his sister's house on the outskirts of St. Louis, the second round of the draft was well underway. Kirksey's mom, Patrice, intently kept tabs on the draft, scribbling down every pick on a yellow legal pad.

It's NFL protocol on draft day to provide two phone numbers to all 32 teams, just in case something happens. Kirksey provided his personal number and his mom's.

The Cleveland Browns were on the clock and Patrice's phone rang with a 440 area code. The room of family and friends fell silent.

"Hello, who is this?" answered Patrice, surprised.

Kirksey had a bunch of friends from Ohio and he was used to seeing the area code. He thought one of his buddies was trying to prank him.

Patrice handed her son the phone.

"Coach (Jim) O'Neil, coach (Mike) Pettine, Ray Farmer asked me if I wanted to be a Brown and I just remember – I blacked out," Kirksey said. "I knew I was talking to them, but I blacked out. I was so excited, I hung up and yelled, 'I'm going to Cleveland!'"

Farmer, Pettine and O'Neil knew Kirksey had potential as a linebacker in coverage on third downs, but none of the three could've foreseen the results the rookie posted in 2014.

Kirksey ended up starting eight games for the Browns, racking up 74 tackles and two sacks. According to, Kirksey logged 693 snaps, which was more than several key Browns players.

Rookies Joel Bitonio, Taylor Gabriel, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West received a lion's share of the praise for adding life to the offense, but Kirksey remained steady and limited his mistakes. The Browns simply couldn't take him off the field.

"We're very pleased with where he is and think that he'll be a big part of what we do here moving forward," Pettine said about Kirksey in November.

Kirksey openly admits he was the beneficiary of some fine tutelage. Robertson and Karlos Dansby took the 23-year-old under their wing. Robertson, in particular, took to his new teammate. In a situation where Robertson knew Kirksey was impeding on his snap-count, the veteran couldn't have been more of a professional.

"When I first came in as a rookie, Craig just pulled me off to the side and just told me, 'Hey, you're just at another level. It's football. Do what you've been doing since you were little,'" Kirksey said. "He's just kind of the guy that keeps you going and keeps you with an extra push."

Related Article: , Cleveland's energizer bunny

A year ago, inside linebacking went from being a weakness on the Browns' team to one of the strengths. With a year of seasoning under his belt, it's easy to predict Kirksey's role increasing even more in 2015.

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