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Connor Shaw and Chris Kirksey eager to play at FirstEnergy Stadium


A couple of things stuck out for Browns rookies Connor Shaw and Chris Kirksey on Thursday, as they took FirstEnergy Stadium to help coach a youth clinic.

Shaw played the role of quarterback in several different drills with elementary school-aged kids. The event was eye opening for Shaw, who is expecting his first child in a few short months.

"It's good practice for me," said Shaw with a smile. "I'm having a little girl, and there are some girls out here. I know the kids are really enjoying it."

As for Kirksey, it seemed as if the linebacker from Iowa was having more fun than the kids themselves. Kirksey relished in his role of coaching up the young kids on defense, celebrating with his players by bumping elbows in midair. His wide smile was contagious amongst the kids he was mentoring.

Is Coach Kirksey something in the 21-year-old's future?

"I've thought about it," said Kirksey about coaching down the road. "Having relationships with previous coaches in little league, to college. Building relationships with those guys it kind of makes me want to coach… Helping a kid live his dream, like I did mine."

Being on the actual turf at FirstEnergy Stadium reminded Shaw and Kirksey how important training camp and the preseason will be for them both.

Shaw is quietly in a quarterback competition of his own. Veteran quarterback Tyler Thigpen is an intelligent football player who is well-versed in many NFL offenses. There's not much Thigpen, 30, hasn't seen.

Shaw trusts his tools as a quarterback, especially his mobile legs. It's the mental part of his game that needs refining, but he'll have time. If he does execute play-calls cleanly in August, he has a real shot at cracking the 53-man roster.

"The playbook is so different from college," Shaw said. "It's been a great couple of months making that transition. Guys like Brian Hoyer and Tyler Thigpen have really helped in the learning process."

Kirksey says the advice he has taken from his fellow linebackers is to not overthink. Just go out and play football and make sure you're having fun while doing it. The Browns are cross-training Kirksey at both outside and inside linebacker, but expect the latter to be the more permanent position.

"My mindset is wherever the team needs me to play, wherever the coaches need me to play, I'll be out there just working," said Kirksey. "I'm trying to improve my game and have fun and play to the best of my ability."

The next time Shaw and Kirksey are at FirstEnergy Stadium, the place will be rocking. After two preseason contests on the road in Detroit and Washington, the Browns will return home for their opener against the St. Louis Rams. Let the countdown begin.

"It's really special," Shaw said about seeing the stadium for the first time on Thursday. "I know it's going to be a crazy atmosphere and really live come season time."

"Whenever you are walking on the grass you're going to be playing on, it always feels good," said Kirksey.

The rookies will remain in the Cleveland area until next Friday, following the end of the NFL rookie symposium. Then a three-week vacation before the beginning of training camp here in Berea.

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