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Denzel Ward sets stage to continue storied career in his home state

Few athletes have carved the career Ward has already built. Even less have been able to do it all in their home state.


Denzel Ward understands how special of a story he's created in Ohio.

From Macedonia, to Columbus, to Cleveland, Ward has been a consummate pro on and off the field no matter where he's been. His football home has always been close to home, and he's never failed to meet expectations, deliver elite production and prove himself in becoming one of the most talented cornerbacks in the sport.

And Ward, whose path included star careers at Nordonia High School and Ohio State before he was drafted by the Browns fourth overall in 2018, hasn't taken any of it for granted. That was evident Wednesday as he spoke to reporters about the five-year extension he signed with the Browns to continue his Pro Bowl career in Cleveland and play in the only state he's ever been able to call home.

"The fact that they believe in me, a kid that grew up in Ohio and went on to play for the hometown team … I'm blessed," Ward said. "I just want to continue to give back and show them that I'm that guy."

Four-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl CB Denzel Ward signed a contract extension Tuesday that will keep him in Cleveland through 2027.

Ward has given back to Cleveland in many ways since he packed his bags from Columbus and drove back up I-71 to continue his NFL career.

On the field, he's become the shutdown corner the Browns expected when they became only the third team in the previous decade to draft a cornerback with a top five pick. He has two or more interceptions and double-digit pass breakups in each of his first four seasons, and he's arguably coming off his best season yet, a year where he led the Browns with three interceptions and earned his second career Pro Bowl nomination. 

The first was after his rookie season, when it was evident that the Browns could have a player capable of carving out a long, storied career in Cleveland. 

Ward has done just that. His production on the field has made him a fan favorite, and his constant efforts in giving back to the community through his "Make Them Know Your Name" Foundation and other various efforts are even more evidence of the love Ward has for his hometown.

"He has earned (the extension) with the way he has played, the way he has conducted himself off the field and what he has done in our community," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He speaks to the type of culture that the Haslam family has in this community. Denzel just embodies that."

Ward joins a long list of other Browns stars who have now solidified a long-term future in Cleveland. 

Myles Garrett is under contract through 2026. Nick Chubb is signed through 2024. Deshaun Watson was extended through 2026 when the Browns completed his trade. Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller are both locked in through 2025. Several other big players — John Johnson III, Kareem Hunt, Greg Newsome II, David Njoku, Troy Hill, Grant Delpit, to name a few — will be in Cleveland for 2022 or longer.

It's been decades since the window for the Browns to win a Super Bowl has felt this big, and Ward knows the work isn't over.

"It's all our goal to get to the Super Bowl," he said. "For me, I'm a person that likes to take it a game at a time, a day at a time. I don't like to look too far ahead."

He certainly doesn't have to do that now. 

Ward knows where he'll be for the next six years. It's the same place he's always been — where he learned how to play the game, become a top recruit, then a top prospect, then a Pro Bowler, then a player that will never soon be forgotten as one of the best for his hometown team.

Cleveland has been a special place for Ward, and he wouldn't want his story to grow anywhere else.

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