Marcus Santos-Silva has made considerable progress in his quest to carve an NFL career at tight end thanks to help from several tight ends around the league.
Santos-Silva, who played basketball at Texas Tech and VCU but changed his professional sports aspirations to football last spring, is hoping to crack a roster spot with the Browns during training camp. He's turned to several resources to help him, starting with the teammates he was around each day during the offseason program.
"(David Njoku, (Harrison) Bryant, Miller (Forristall), and (FB) Johnny (Stanton IV), they've been helping me out a lot over here," Santos-Silva said in a recent interview on Cleveland Browns Daily. "Watching the film (of them) has been way different than watching them in person, like watching Harrison and how he runs routes and blocks and especially Njoku, his catching and blocking."
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Despite not playing the sport since his freshman year of high school, Santos-Silva, 25, signed with the Browns in May and proved to them in a single tryout that he packed plenty of athleticism in his 6-foot-6, 261 pound frame.
Santos-Silva didn't look out of place during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, either — he caught quick passes, ran precise routes and showed speed from the line of scrimmage. The basketball background, of course, also translated well to his jumping abilities and hand-eye coordination when both feet were off the ground.
The Browns knew Santos-Silva has the athleticism to stay in the league, but he knows his biggest hurdle toward that achievement is learning how to read a playbook. Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox, who also underwent a successful transition from basketball to football after college, first alerted Santos-Silva of that challenge back when he decided to change sports. The two initially met at VCU.
"To us, it's like a whole new language," he said. "Right now, since we have this break until training camp, that's one of my main goals is to commit to the playbook … The pointers he's given me have really helped me out because I have a type of vision of what it's going to be like."
Santos-Silva has also spent several hours watching film not only of himself, but of the other top tight ends of his generation.
He's perused through reels of George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski and analyzed how they run their routes, beat receivers and tackle the less noticeable aspect of the position: blocking.
"The main person I watch is Gronk," he said. "We're both tall, big and have the same body type. I really watch any of the good tight ends in the league. I really pay attention to their footwork and blocking."
Santos-Silva collected plenty of reps to showcase his catching and route-running skills in the offseason program, but training camp — when players finally wear pads — will give him a chance to block and prove he can perform well in the physical nature of the game.
"I'm not really worried about the physicality part," Santos-Silva said. "I know I'm going to get hit, blocked and all that. I'm good with that. Once I get the hang of it, I'm going to get back to holding my ground out there."
In the meantime, he'll continue to watch and learn from other players who have played his position much longer than him.
But after a smooth minicamp, Santos-Silva feels as though he's made quick progress toward playing at their level.
"I'm 100 percent committed to this whole thing," he said. "I really want to make this work out because I've actually had a lot of fun with it."