It is only fitting, with the resurgence of the Browns, that on the day the city of Cleveland and the team celebrated their selection as host city of the 2021 NFL Draft, a blustering storm passed through the region before giving way to blue skies and sunshine.
Radio voice of the Browns Jim Donovan called it a "perfect fit" on what was a picture perfect day in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish, and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission president and CEO David Gilbert joined Browns executive vice president JW Johnson, general manager John Dorsey, cornerback Denzel Ward and former return ace Josh Cribbs in Public Square to celebrate the successful bid to host the NFL's largest offseason event.
"I think it's a direct tribute to the fans of the Cleveland Browns and the city of Cleveland and all of the hard work David and his group have done," Dorsey said Thursday.
A key of Cleveland's presentation was the passion of its football fanbase, and also its history as the birthplace of professional football. Brown and orange-clad fans streamed into Public Square for the event, hosted by Destination Cleveland with the Browns, and played cornhole and threw footballs through tires while also enjoying free tailgate food choices and beverages. If anything, Thursday's turnout served as an example that the NFL made the right choice, and that Cleveland will turn out in droves for the draft in 2021.
Check out photos from the sixth day of OTA practices
"Attracting these kinds of events like the draft, most importantly, should make Clevelanders proud," Gilbert said. "We deserve to get this."
The 2019 NFL Draft drew 50 million viewers and filled the streets of Nashville with thousands of fans, a type of attendance that should be expected in Cleveland in 2021, especially if the weather cooperates.
"To get to where it is now, it shows you the growth of the National Football League and where it's gone," Dorsey said. "Now they've taken this venue and they now move it to city to city to city ... the economic impact to the city, it's pretty important."
Ward was invited in part because of his own roots, being a Nordonia High School product who played at Ohio State and proudly claims Cleveland as his home. He said had he been drafted in a year in which the event was held in Cleveland, it would've added extra meaning to what was already an unforgettable achievement in his life.
"This is where I'm from. It means a lot," Ward said of the city securing the 2021 draft. "I'm from Cleveland, I take a lot of pride in being here from Cleveland and that's why I can get back into the community and do a lot of things."
In the meantime, the Browns have plenty of football to play before 2021 arrives. The 2019 season will come with great expectation, to which Dorsey advised fans "don't believe the hype." But as Thursday showed, the hype surrounding Cleveland cannot be slowed. After all, it has already led the NFL to the city perched along Lake Erie.