Grant Delpit never needed to travel to Ohio as he shaped one of the best safety careers in Tigers' history. The Browns' 2020 second-round pick from LSU has never seen the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, witnessed the endless sightlines from Lake Erie or experienced the frigid weather of Cleveland.
Delpit doesn't know when the first taste of his new city will come. No rookies have been able to visit the headquarters in Berea yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Delpit doesn't need to see it.
With five other former LSU players on the Browns, he already feels at home.
"The first thing that popped into my mind (after the draft) was the amount of guys I was familiar with up there," Delpit said. "We have a strong tradition at LSU. It's a tradition of winning. We haven't been exactly where we wanted to be in the past eight to 10 years, so getting there this year just took a winning mindset and a winning mentality. I know that the Browns have that, so I can't wait to join the organization and take what we had at LSU and bring it all together."
Delpit joins wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, CB Greedy Williams and LB Jacob Phillips, who was selected by the Browns one round after Delpit, as Cleveland players with bayou connections. The Tigers have always been one of the premier SEC schools for NFL talent but they took an even larger leap into the NFL draft pool after winning the College Football National Championship in January. As a result, LSU tied an all-time draft record when 14 players were selected in the 2020 draft, a mark that hasn't been hit since Ohio State did it in 2004.
The Browns have selected Grant Delpit in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Delpit was one of the top defensive talents from the Tigers. He won the 2019 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in the country, and was widely projected to be a first-round draft pick after amassing eight interceptions and 199 tackles in three seasons.
Instead, Delpit's name was still on the board after Day 1. His junior year production wasn't as high as other defensive players available, but it's worth noting that Delpit played through a nagging ankle injury in the final half of the season. His tackling abilities didn't appear as strong, but there was still plenty of promise in the New Orleans native.
When the Browns were making their selection with the 44th pick of the draft, Delpit was at the top of the list. So, Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry made a fitting selection. Delpit addressed both immediate and long-term needs on defense.
"Grant is incredibly versatile," Berry said. "He's a bigger guy that has a pretty broad coverage skill set. Whether it's playing at the back end, in the middle of the field in the post, playing near the line of scrimmage, covering a tight end or walking over to the slot. That's something that's difficult to find."
The LSU roots made Delpit an easy pick, too. In the Browns secondary, he'll be reunited with Williams, who was his teammate from 2017-2018. During that span, the duo combined for a staggering 14 interceptions.
Last season as an NFL rookie, Williams impressed as a starting cornerback alongside 2018 Pro Bowler Denzel Ward. Now, he'll have a college friend playing beside him.
"We go back all the way back to practice, 2017," Delpit said in his post-draft video call with local reporters. "I miss my dude. It is going to be great to play with him again."
Delpit and Williams will also have Phillips, who led LSU in tackles last season and will compete to be a Week 1 starting linebacker, in front of them.
That combination could create one of the most interesting training camp matchups, when Delpit, Williams and Phillips could all be tasked to defend against Beckham and Landry, two of the best receivers to ever emerge from the Tigers program.
"It is turning into big Tigers up there," Delpit said with a laugh. "They call it the LSU of the North. Now, that is really turning into truth. I can't wait to compete against those guys and seeing we're so close – we're so close to winning."
For now, Delpit will have to wait until the LSU bunch — and everyone else on the Browns, of course — can return to practice in Cleveland.
Whenever they do, that LSU camaraderie will be important for Delpit. If he feels at home with the Browns like he did in Baton Rouge, Cleveland's defense will only get better.
"It's an LSU reunion," Delpit said. "We're going to show that LSU mentality and hopefully make some plays get some wins and get that ball back to our offense."