Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi didn’t know where to look as he stepped in front of his stall in the corner of the Browns locker room.
One camera was lifted toward Sheehy-Guiseppi’s smiling face. Then another camera went up. And then another.
Sheehy-Guiseppi didn’t realize he’d receive all the media hype after the Browns’ 30-10 preseason-opening win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium. The rookie wide receiver made one of the top plays of the game — and, perhaps, the biggest play of his inspirational career — when he returned a punt for 86 yards in the fourth quarter for the Browns’ final score.
“I don’t know where to start,” Sheehy-Guiseppi said as his eyes darted between each camera, recorder and microphone.
His touchdown, however, was the perfect start for Sheehy-Guiseppi’s improbable path to the NFL. Four months ago, he arrived for his tryout with the Browns with two bags of possessions, only a few hundred dollars and a dream of wearing an NFL uniform.
Check out photos of the Cleveland Browns vs the Washington Redskins at FirstEnergy Stadium by team photographer Matt Starkey
Sheehy-Guiseppi accomplished that dream Thursday, and then he ran with it. He fielded the punt, weaved through three defenders and tilted his head back as he sprinted to the end zone and jumped in jubilation right in front of fans in the Dawg Pound.
Seconds after the score, Sheehy-Guiseppi couldn’t breathe. Teammates mobbed the 5-foot, 11-inch Sheehy-Guiseppi in excitement after the touchdown and created an early frontrunner for best scene of the preseason.
“I just ran as fast as I could in the hole,” Sheehy-Guiseppi said with the same smile he never lost throughout the interview. “I felt all the love. I was over there gasping for air, but I felt all the love. It was just a blessing to see them all coming down excited.”
Rashard Higgins and the other wide receivers were excited to watch Sheehy-Guiseppi make the return before the punt was even made. Sheehy-Guiseppi told them during training camp he could run a blistering-fast 4.30 40-yard dash time, but they had never seen Sheehy-Guiseppi race at those speeds during special teams drills, where tackling isn’t allowed.
The receivers called the touchdown before he fielded the kick, just for fun. Then, it actually happened.
“The talk of the day should be Damon,” Higgins said. “For him to come out and have fun in his first game is special. That is what the game is all about. I really can’t describe the feeling because I am so happy for that guy.”
Did Sheehy-Guiseppi look as fast as he mentioned?
“It looked like he ran a 4.3 to me,” Higgins said with a smile.
Sheehy-Guiseppi, who hadn’t faced live punt-return action since he played at Phoenix College in the NJCAA in 2016, is buried in the depth chart behind top wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Higgins and more. He had to wait before he could finally step into the spotlight during the fourth quarter of a preseason game.
After his tremendous return, though, Sheehy-Guiseppi quickly became a fan favorite.
“I’m just blessed to be healthy and be in the position that I am,” he said. “I just try to stay in the moment and just think about what’s to come next. I’m super proud to be able to take advantage of moments like that.”
Sheehy-Guiseppi did more than take advantage of the moment. He seized it and ran as fast as he could. That’s what he’s been doing since the Browns offered him a tryout in April.
Now, Sheehy-Guiseppi will never forget it.