CLEVELAND — In addition to being a nine-time Pro Bowler, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is also something of a barbecue connoisseur and an active member of the Cleveland community.
So on Friday, Thomas and fellow offensive lineman Joel Bitonio combined those passions and visited the Second District Police Station as part of the Browns' First and Ten initiative and National Police Week.
"(We're) kind of saying thank you," Thomas said.
And they brought Mission BBQ, a new food chain set to start opening across Northeast Ohio in June, as a token of their appreciation.
"As a Cleveland Brown, we form good relationships with the police officers in our city," Thomas said, "and a number of the people in the second district work with our team on the weekends and they travel with us for games."
The menu was an impressive one, too. Mission BBQ, which drove up from its soon-to-open store in Canton, provided pulled pork sliders, jalapeno and cheese sausage (Thomas' favorite) coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and more.
"It's going to be a new BBQ restaurant in the Cleveland area that serves up some tremendous food. Everybody loves a good barbecue and it's a pretty good fast and casual concept. But the mission behind it — and that's the reason it's called Mission BBQ — is because a big part of what they do is giving back to military members, police officers, first responders," Thomas said, "and it just fits perfectly coming out here today and thanking these men and women who work for the police department."
Thomas and Bitonio joined the officers during their shift change and ate outside on a picnic table, talking everything from the Browns to the Cleveland Cavaliers' postseason run.
"We've formed a good relationship," Thomas said, "and I thought it was appropriate that we come out here during police memorial week and feed these police officers some good old fashioned Mission BBQ and thank them for all that they do for the community."
The Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year.
Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.