Michael Dean Perry did not wait long to show the Browns how talented he could be as a defensive lineman.
After he was selected 50th overall in the second round of the 1988 draft, Perry arrived at training camp thinking he would soon face the toughest competition of his career. Nearly all NFL rookies need time to acclimate to the professional level once they make the jump from college, and even though Perry was hopeful to secure a starting spot on the roster, he wasn't quite sure how challenging his first NFL training camp would be.
Then, Perry took his first scrimmage rep. He beat Dan Fike, a veteran offensive lineman who had been a starter for the Browns the last three seasons. And he continued to beat him throughout the first practice.
"He was so pissed that you wouldn't believe," Perry said in a recent Club 46 interview with Jay Crawford. "He said, 'I can't believe this rookie beat me. This rookie beat me.' That's all you heard."
But that wasn't a reflection of anything poor about Fike's performance. Perry was an anomaly to the normal learning curve of NFL rookies. He was dominant from Day 1 and continued to win battles against offensive lineman on Sundays, which led to 51.5 career sacks — second in franchise history — with five Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro honors in his seven-year tenure.
He's one of the best defenders to ever play for the Browns, and he quickly realized that to be his potential as a rookie in Cleveland.
"I wasn't blown away," Perry said about his adjustment to the NFL level. "I was quick off the ball. I had great speed up the field, so I worked on double teams. I worked on bull rush. I worked on my skill set that I wasn't very good at. And by doing that, I had more tools in the toolbox so that if they stopped this one, I'll go to this. That's how it was."
The Cleveland Browns Presents: Club 46 - player stories through generations of football
Perry's defensive prowess made him a fan favorite in Cleveland. The city loved watching Perry bully opposing quarterbacks each week and admired his consistency through all seven of his seasons in Cleveland. He was always a top player no matter the team record, and he always appreciated the love fans gave the Browns on every game day.
The city of Cleveland always embraced Perry, and Perry loved them back. One of his greatest examples of his appreciation came in the form of a McDonald's cheeseburger, named the "MDP" after Perry's initials, which he proudly promoted in a commercial when the cheeseburger was sold in the metro-Cleveland area.
The 30-second ad featured Perry taking a bite of the cheeseburger, made special by its three patties and bacon slices, before he gave his only line of the ad. He was asked what he wanted next after taking a few colossal bites of the gargantuan sandwich.
Years later, Perry still remembers the buzz about the burger and all of the hallmarks of the legendary career he built in Cleveland. Perry was a perfect fit for the Browns, both because of his on-field talents and his ability to connect with the fanbase.
"It was like a match made in heaven," he said. "From the first day that I put on that Browns uniform and went out and tried to do my very best, Cleveland has always welcomed me. They always showed me a lot of love. And I am so grateful for the love and compassion that you guys had for Michael Dean Perry."
That tight relationship was why he was heartbroken to leave the Browns in 1995.
Perry was released by the Browns and signed a new contract with the Denver Broncos as he neared the final few years of his career. He excelled in Denver, too, and made the Pro Bowl in his second season in 1996, but playing anywhere outside of Cleveland made playing football feel more like "work" to Perry.
He rarely felt that way with the Browns. There were no "MDP" burgers to be sold in Denver, and even though Perry understood that the business side of football often means switching homes on short notice, he always craved the same type of love and success he found in Cleveland.
"My heart was still in Cleveland," he said. "It was a job (in Denver). I wanted to stay in Cleveland. I thought I would start and end up in Cleveland, but it didn't work out that way. I enjoyed the city, enjoyed playing for them. And I just loved being there. That's always going to be my favorite."
Perry's legacy, however, will never be forgotten by the franchise. He knew from the very first day of training camp that he could build a storied career, and he was right.
So when he looks back on his brightest moments with the Browns, Perry can't help but smile.
"I had a great time in Cleveland," he said. "If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing."