Bernie Kosar had always dreamed of becoming a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
He knows that sounds cliché, but there's no other way for Kosar, a Youngstown native, to phrase his childhood goal when he ran around the yard playing football envisioning himself in an NFL stadium.
"It's easy to say right now, but absolutely," Kosar said.
Kosar lived that dream to the fullest. From 1985-1993, he piloted the Browns through one of their most successful periods in franchise history that included five playoff appearances and three trips to the AFC Championship game. He ended his Browns tenure second in franchise history with 21,904 passing yards and third with 116 touchdowns.
A career in sports was one of Kosar's only life options growing up in Youngstown. The city was built on the success of the steel industry, but it took a sharp decline near the end of the 1970s and carried a heavy impact on the Youngstown job market.
That meant Kosar's career options were limited.
For him, it was either football or school. His family couldn't afford the latter.
So, Kosar picked football.
"That was your chance out," he said. "That was your chance for your family's success."
Luckily for Kosar, it worked out to perfection. His college path continued to the University of Miami, where he joined future Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde and future NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.
Kosar considered transferring. The competition was too good, and his odds of becoming a starting quarterback as a freshman were slim. He received a redshirt his freshman year and contemplated making a move back to a school closer to him, wondering if Notre Dame or Ohio State would give him a shot.
Instead, Kosar stayed in Miami. He won the quarterback competition the next season and led the Hurricanes to a national championship in an upset win over top-ranked Nebraska.
Kosar just wouldn't call it an upset.
"I expected us to win. I go into every game expecting to win," Kosar said. "They weren't upsets to me. And our goal was we were going to win the national championship that year, so it wasn't a surprise. It was just a matter of fact of that was what I was supposed to do."
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Kosar wanted to ride the fast track to the NFL. He was set to graduate in 1985 and wanted to play for one team: the Cleveland Browns.
But Kosar's draft process was among the oddest in NFL history. At the time, only college seniors and graduates could be drafted in the regular draft or supplemental draft, held in the months following the regular draft.
Kosar was eligible, but he purposely didn't submit his paperwork for the regular draft. He was expected to go second overall to the Minnesota Vikings, who traded with the Houston Oilers for the pick.
That led to commissioner Pete Rozelle essentially giving Kosar his draft choice. Before Kosar made his selection, he informed Browns general manager Ernie Accorsi and owner Art Modell that he was leaning toward the supplemental draft.
So, the Browns made a move. They traded with the Buffalo Bills for the first overall pick of the supplemental draft.
Then, Kosar picked the supplemental draft. He was heading to Cleveland.
"All of a sudden, I graduated real quick, and you're in training camp," Kosar said. "It's seven weeks of training camp with Marty Schottenheimer and the Cleveland Browns. You're right in the thick of it."
Kosar's career ascended from there. The Browns made the playoffs for the third time in the last 13 years despite an 8-8 record and strung together four more postseason appearances with Kosar under center.
The most memorable moments, perhaps, came in the Browns' 1986 playoff run.
Kosar led the Browns to a 23-20 double overtime victory over the New York Jets after Cleveland faced a 20-10 deficit with 4 minutes to play.
Fans were beginning to leave Cleveland Municipal Stadium. They thought the season was over. Kosar, however, never lost his faith.
He scored a touchdown on the next drive, and after the Browns defense stuffed the Jets for a punt with 51 seconds left, Kosar moved Cleveland down to New York's 5-yard line for an easy field goal to tie the game and set the Browns up for the win.
"Hell yes," Kosar said when asked if he truly believed the Browns were going to come back. "Somehow, someway, we figured out a way to win. I like to say that epitomizes myself. But really, it epitomizes a team and those guys. I love them to this day."
The Browns lost in heartbreaking fashion in the AFC Championship game to the Denver Broncos a week later in overtime, but what Kosar remembered the most was the raucous ovation from Cleveland fans as they walked off the field.
"When I'm walking off the field, it's a miserable feeling, of course," Kosar said. "We lost, and the fans give us a standing ovation. I don't take consolation in losses, but it really was an emotionally cool year. It was something special, and the fans appreciated it, even in a loss."
The result wasn't what Kosar wanted, but those were the memories he envisioned when he was a Youngstown child and avid Browns fan.
Kosar spent his final four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, but his Browns fandom hasn't wavered.
After fulfilling his childhood dream and creating some of the best Browns memories in franchise history, why should it?
"I haven't had to grow up," Kosar said. "I got to be a quarterback and play in an amazing sport with a bunch of my friends out there. That's something that I'm blessed to do."