One month ago, Juan Thornhill was celebrating under the confetti at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his career. The Chiefs were at the top of the football world again for the second time in four years with a win in Super Bowl LIV, and Thornhill helped them climb it as the top safety in their defense.
Not many players have the championship resume Thornhill built in his first four NFL seasons in Kansas City, and that's part of what made him such an attractive free agent candidate for the Browns, who added him to their roster Thursday and need his talent and leadership to turn around their defense.
Thornhill is ready to bring it — and believes his new team will has all the parts required to experience the same celebration he was in last month.
"All of the pieces are here," Thornhill said. "They've got a really good quarterback, receivers, the defense is super strong. I feel like all of the pieces are here and we have that capability of getting there and making a splash in the playoffs and making it to the Super Bowl."
Check out photos of new Browns S Juan Thornhill, who agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Cleveland
Thornhill was one of three key defensive players the Browns added at the start of free agency to help them get closer to that goal. DE Ogbo Okoronkwo and DT Dalvin Tomlinson were brought in to repair a defense that broke down too many times in 2022, and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will be in charge of getting the most out of those new pieces to lift the defense and bring the Browns to a playoff level.
Thornhill arrived at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on Friday and spoke to Schwartz for 30-40 minutes. Schwartz drew a few plays on a whiteboard to illustrate what Thornhill will be doing on the defense, and he left that chat feeling even more excited about what's ahead with his new team.
"He got me pumped up," Thornhill said. "That's all I can say. Just already talking a little bit about football, the scheme, how he sees me in the defense. He got me ready to go."
Thornhill will likely slide into the secondary as a free safety who helps prevent deep passes. That's the same role he had last season with the Chiefs, which was a career year for him — his three interceptions matched his career-high from his rookie season, and he was second on their defense with a career-high nine pass breakups.
But one thing Thornhill learned in his chat with Schwartz was that he'll be needed everywhere on defense, too.
"You can tell that he likes those guys that can do multiple jobs, being able to cover man to man, being down in the box playing a deep half and a third," he said. "He definitely sees me as that guy that can do all the different roles."
Leadership will be one of them as well. It always is for a player who's been on two Super Bowl teams, and Thornhill won't shy away from all the responsibilities that come with it.
The leadership role won't be anything new for Thornhill, though. Even though he was only a third-year player, he was still one of the most experienced veterans on a young Chiefs defense last season, and he realized he needed to do more talking and guiding teammates for the Chiefs to succeed.
"We had four or five rookies this year that had to play," he said. "I was looked at as that guy that had to be that leader, so I had to be that teacher in the room and be the guy that they can lean on if something was to go wrong and to lift them up."
Thornhill prefers to take a slow approach to leading, though. He's vocal, but not in the way most people expect when they think of a loud leader.
"You always have to walk in and try to figure out what it is going to be like," he said. "I'm not going to be that guy who is going to step in and just try to take over everything. I'm going to figure out how things are going to go. I'm not that type of guy that is going to just be on the field yelling everywhere telling them, 'Let's go. Push yourself.'
"I'm the one who is going to lead by example, but if you're not working hard, I will step up and say something, but I'm not going to be the guy that is going to put you on blast in front of the whole team; I will come up to you personally and let you know."
Where Thornhill does expect to hear loud noise, however, is at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Particularly, the Dawg Pound.
Thornhill has heard great things about the energy Browns fans bring, and he's experienced a small taste of it on social media with fans welcoming him to Cleveland.
He knows the full experience won't be felt, though, until he takes the field for the first time in his new NFL home.
"The fans out here are crazy, and that's what I love to be a part of," he said. "When I come out of that tunnel, I want the fans to jack me up and make me ready to run through a wall. That's what I hear about Cleveland, and I'm excited."
His goal is to give those fans something to celebrate in February — and hold a Lombardi Trophy again.