The moment Mike Patrick learned he'd be the TV play-by-play man for Browns preseason games, he went right to work.
The veteran broadcaster has been poring over notes, newspaper clips and anything else he can get his hands on as he prepares for Thursday's preseason opener on NewsChannel 5 against the Washington Redskins. As he watched practice in Berea on Tuesday, Patrick saw a team he believes is headed in the right direction both from an administrative and personnel standpoint.
"There's reason for some optimism, which I think is wonderful," Patrick said. "If you are drafting offensive and defensive linemen, you're trying to build a ballclub the right way. No team wins without a good offensive line and a good defensive line. Nobody. it just isn't done. If you don't have the foundation, you can't build on anything. I admire the draft choices and the people they went after."
Patrick has worked at ESPN since 1982 and was on the call for the Browns 1999 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's been 28 years since Patrick called ESPN's first NFL broadcast in 1987, a landmark moment for both him and the network.
"We had had rights to do college football games, college basketball games and we really did them well, but there's nothing like the NFL, absolutely nothing," Patrick said. "It confirmed what we had always believed and I don't think anyone else knew. It made us a major player in doing this. I think just signing that contract with the NFL was probably part of the biggest thing I ever saw in this business."
Patrick's career began long before he called his first NFL game for ESPN, but it wasn't always the plan. When he attended George Washington University, Patrick wanted to play Major League Baseball. If he couldn't do that, he wanted to be a psychologist.
On the same day, as Patrick describes it, he decided he wasn't happy enough or good enough at either to pursue them any further. He applied to work at a nearby radio station later that afternoon.
"Just dumb luck," he called it.
"I knew I loved it right away. Certain things you do that just fit your personality. If you love it, anything after that is gravy," Patrick said. "I had seen my mother and her friends really dislike what they did for a living. They just hated to get up every day to go to work. I thought to myself that I can't ever get trapped like that and that's what would have happened if I continued with psychology.
"But it's always a learning process. The day you stop trying to get better is when you get worse."
When Patrick signs off at the end of Cleveland's preseason finale, he won't need to hop on a plane. He'll stay right in Chicago and prepare for college football's opening weekend. His first assignment is Stanford-Northwestern in nearby Evanston.
By then, he'll be well into yet another busy fall of football all across the country.
"I'll start working on them as soon as I get information from the schools," Patrick said. "Then you're cramming for a final every week."