The memories don't fade. Instead, they've served as fuel as Josh McCown plays some of the best football of his NFL career at the age of 36.
Five years removed from a one-year stint in the now-defunct United Football League, McCown set a laundry list of franchise records in a 33-30 comeback, overtime victory Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens. No one in the NFL's thrown for more yards than McCown has over the past three weeks, and he's suddenly the commander of a Browns passing offense that ranks sixth in the NFL.
Needless to say, it's a long way from Hartford, where McCown spent his 2010 season with the Colonials.
"It wouldn't be fair to say that I was super positive and I just knew that it was all going to work out this way," McCown said on a Monday conference call. "I went to that league just wanting to play … continue to grow as a player and there were very tough moments being in that league and away from my family and just feeling 'hey, is this what I'm supposed to be doing? Is this really how I want to end this thing?'
"For me as a person of faith, I felt like that's where the journey had led me and that's where I was supposed to be. It was just trusting that process and feeling thankful for it because it allowed not only for me to grow as a football player but also to grow as a man and stretched my faith certainly, but I'm better for it."
The Browns have seen McCown at his best over the past three weeks, as he's completed 68 percent of his passes for a whopping 1,154 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He collected his first victory with the Browns as a starter Sunday and hopes to do the same in Cleveland's upcoming showdown with Denver, which boasts one of the NFL's nastiest defenses.
It's been a stretch of football that is similar to what McCown notched as a fill-in starter for Jay Cutler during the 2013 season with the Bears. In four consecutive starts before he was replaced by Cutler, McCown was 105-for-150 for 1,271 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
This latest stretch for McCown has elicited the positive memories of his past, which also fuel his motivation.
"Every situation is different. Just from a system wise, I feel just as good about the system that we have in place and what we're doing as I did then," McCown said. "I think that's the biggest thing I can say about it is I feel like when I go out on the field on Sunday, I feel like I'm prepared, I feel like I have answers and that's the way I felt with it in 2013 with the Bears."
As McCown noted in his post-game press conference, plenty of people years ago wrote off his potential to positively impact an NFL team as a starting quarterback. He made a point, of course, to exclude the Browns from that group.
That support from Cleveland was at its strongest last month, when Browns coach Mike Pettine kept McCown as the starter after he missed the better part of two games with a concussion to start the season. The veteran quarterback's performance, especially Sunday's against the Ravens, has eliminated a good chunk of the outside chatter surrounding that decision.
"He doesn't get too up. He doesn't get too down. He is always very positive on the sideline. He will be the first person to criticize himself and say he missed a throw or he missed a read or missed a chance in the protection or getting us in the right play," Pettine said. "His success, while on the outside of the building is surprising, the people that were here in the spring with him and watched him through training camp and how he handled his business, we knew if we played well around him that he was capable of this."
McCown's enjoying the ride but isn't coasting. The time to reflect ends Wednesday, when he'll return to practice as the Browns prepare in hopes of winning consecutive games for the first time since last November.
He's living in the moment with everything in his football past placed in proper perspective.
"It's one of those deals where people are just being so supportive and a cool time you can sit and reflect to see how many people care about you and are rooting for you, praying for you all those things," McCown said. "Just appreciate everybody that's reached out, it's pretty cool."