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How a short elevator conversation with Andrew Berry laid the groundwork for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah joining Browns

When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah saw Andrew Berry in an elevator outside Lucas Oil Stadium at the 2019 NFL scouting combine, he knew he needed to talk with him.

Adofo-Mensah, who was the Director for Football Research and Development with the San Francisco 49ers at the time, was already a fan of Berry. He knew Berry wouldn't last long in his role as VP of Football Operations with the Philadelphia Eagles. His skills as a talent evaluator were ripe for a team seeking a general manager, a position Berry earned with the Browns in January as the new EVP of Football Operations.

Adofo-Mensah could see that promotion coming for Berry, so he wasn't going to pass up a chance to introduce himself.

"Hey, Andrew, I'm Kwesi," Adofo-Mensah said as the two rode up to their suite. "I've heard great things about you, and it's nice to meet you."

As it turned out, Berry had actually heard about Adofo-Mensah, too. 

"No way," Berry said. "I've been meaning to talk to you."

The two briefly discussed football and their personal lives as they walked to their respective team rooms, but neither knew where their futures were going next: Cleveland.

Berry hired Adofo-Mensah in May as the VP of Football Operations to round out the newest additions to the Browns' top front office positions. Adofo-Mensah will oversee talent evaluators and the analytics team — a big component to Berry's vision with the Browns — to gather information and influence decisions on all roster transactions.

It all started, however, with that simple elevator conversation.

"We decided it was a relationship we wanted to pursue," Adofo-Mensah said Thursday in a video call with local reporters. "I knew Berry was going to be in this position. If you talk to that guy for five minutes, you know where he's going to be in his life. But I didn't know this was going to be the manifestation of our relationship."

Adofo-Mensah's start with the NFL might seem spontaneous. To him, however, it was just a desirable career switch that required similar tasks with analyzing large sums of data.

After graduating from Princeton with an economics degree in 2003, Adofo-Mensah sifted through jobs as an income and commodities analyst and energy trader. Those positions required him to make decisions and gather information under an intense level of uncertainty, a phrase that aligns perfectly with, well, everything about sports.

Adofo-Mensah fell in love with football when he was just 3 years old and played basketball at Princeton. His early resume was filled with non-sports related careers, but his background was still a fit for the research and data team the 49ers had in 2013, when Adofo-Mensah was hired for his first NFL job. Instead of analyzing the commodity trading market, he was evaluating NFL statistics.

"What draws people to sports from an academic environment is you get a chance to apply some of these academic principles, the things that happen subconsciously on the field," Adofo-Mensah said. "Some people see that as very different, but I don't see it very different in my ability to pull information and make a bet on the real market versus pulling information and making a bet on the direction of an NFL player."

Adofo-Mensah spent seven years with the 49ers, molding his knowledge of quantitative methods into the framework of scouting and evaluating players. John Lynch, hired by the 49ers in 2017 to be the new GM, took a headfirst approach into intertwining intricate data analysis into all football decisions, and Adofo-Mensah became one of his go-to people to call before making a trade or signing a player.

The quantitative push from Lynch led San Francisco to the Super Bowl last season. It also gave Adofo-Mensah the boost he needed to climb a few rungs up the NFL ladder.

"They just kind of unleashed me," Adofo-Mensah said in an earlier interview. "They were open-minded and knew that I could provide value to them. That is where I really started to grow on the job. I was in meetings and I was able to communicate, learn and make the models better and really see that union between intuition and math."

Adofo-Mensah was bound to land a promotion somewhere, but he doesn't call himself a "networker." Instead, he prefers to allow his work show his capabilities.

When he saw Berry at the scouting combine in 2019, however, he couldn't ignore the itch to speak with him. 

"There was some point in my NFL life where I decided I had to meet people and start branching out," Adofo-Mensah said. "It was at the Combine I decided that I wanted to meet this Andrew Berry guy. I had heard about him obviously in league circles, and he was somebody I always wanted to meet."

So, he did. The conversation officially put Adofo-Mensah on Berry's radar, and he was a logical fit for Berry when he arrived in Cleveland with the goal of using quantitative methods to maximize the franchise's talent. 

Adofo-Mensah received his promotion, and for him, the partner couldn't be better.

It all started with a simple "hello" in an elevator.

"(Berry) understands the world I came from," Adofo-Mensah said. "I'm so humbled and honored that he and the organization believe in me enough for this position. I'll do everything in my power to make sure I re-pay that."