Jeremiah McKinnon was just hanging out at his house when the phone rang. Having just been waived earlier that month by the Giants, he answered, hoping it was a team.
It was the Browns. From there, he came to Cleveland for a workout, signed a contract and immediately went to work with the goal in mind of cracking the Browns' 53-man roster.
When he got to Cleveland, he was met by a friend from his time in Dallas: Terrence Mitchell. McKinnon, whose nickname is "paint" from his days in high school, and Mitchell ventured through minicamp with the Cowboys for a month in 2016 before Mitchell was released following OTAs. McKinnon was cut a month later.
Now, McKinnon has become a workaholic. On off days, he's working out with Mitchell. He comes into the facility to work early and work often.
"We would come work out, look over film," McKinnon said of he and Mitchell's off-day workouts. "I meet with the coaches early in the morning. Like, I'm saying wake up around 4:30 or 5 in the morning getting in extra film work, and just try to stay on top of my game because I came in late."
McKinnon signed on July 30. The Browns had already started training camp. McKinnon, not having the chance to go through workouts in June with the Browns, had to play catch-up.
But he's done it well. And he's caught the attention of his teammates. It's become commonplace on the practice facility when McKinnon makes a play, the defensive backs go crazy. Jabrill Peppers, notably, gets excited for McKinnon. Peppers is a fiery guy, and it shows toward McKinnon. It goes to show how the members of the secondary welcomed McKinnon into the family. McKinnon just wants to make noise on the field, though: "I just like my play to do the talking."
At the same time, McKinnon carries a chip on his shoulder. In a training camp session, he and wide receiver Rashard Higgins got tangled up in a scuffle. He's fighting for a roster spot, and that can lead to some heated moments in the midst of competition. McKinnon links that fighting spirit to his upbringing in Miami, where everyone is raised with a similar attitude. There are five players on Cleveland's roster who attended Miami and a few others are south Florida natives.
But "The U" ruled the college football scene in South Florida; McKinnon's school, Florida International, takes a backseat. So McKinnon had to work harder to stick out in order to make his NFL dreams a reality. Since coming into the league, McKinnon has been waived four different times. The Browns are his fifth team.
He's learned from other systems, but feels like he can latch on to Gregg Williams' scheme in Cleveland. He's willing to do whatever it takes to earn a spot on the Browns roster. Whether it's a practice squad slot or a starting position, he's welcoming any opportunity. Through camp, he's turned some heads and shown his ability. He's not stopping anytime soon, either. Some of his teammates know his nickname. Now, he's trying to get the whole roster to know who "Paint" is.
"I can do better," he said. "My expectations for myself are pretty high. So I come in every day and just focus in on working as hard as possible."