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2020 NFL Draft

Oh the memories: Browns reflect on NFL Combine experiences

Xavier Cooper seems to remember last year's NFL Combine like it was yesterday.

"My combine experience was crazy," he said, laughing. "I've got a couple stories."

For Cooper — the rookie defensive lineman from Washington State who was selected by the Browns in the third round — the one that most comes to mind is a meeting with the Detroit Lions.

"They put me in a room when we had the meetings, and they put on a tape of nothing but my worst plays in college. Now, imagine you're sitting there with the owner, the GM, the head coach, the defensive coordinator, the defensive line coach and they put on the film of your worst plays," Cooper said.

"And then they ask you, 'What were you doing here? Why did you do this?' So I'm thinking in my head like, 'What is there to say?' And every time I got ready to talk, they cut me off. They were trying to test me and see if I'd flip or say anything so I'd just say, 'I really don't have an excuse for it. Bad plays happen in a game.' Then they took that tape out and put on all my good plays and then they were like, 'Oh you've got a lot to say about this don't you.'"

Sounds fun, right?

"It was a pretty awkward situation," Cooper said, "but it definitely taught me to hold my composure."

For other Browns rookies, memories of the combine — which is set to begin Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — are wide-ranging.

Nate Orchard, the Browns linebacker selected in the second round from Utah, offered a similarly uncomforatble tale from a meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"They asked me what my maiden name was before I changed it Nathaniel, and it was Napa'a Lilo Fakahafua and it was a mouthful," Orchard said. "And to see them try to say it throughout the whole time we were meeting with them … a couple hours later they were like, 'Hey we figured it out: it's just Nate.' So that was pretty funny."

Duke Johnson, the Browns running back who was drafted in the third round out of Miami, recalled an exhausting week.

"My combine experience was horrible," he said, laughing. "Long days, long nights. Meetings. It was just tiring. And then after everything you do, you're asked to go out and perform at the highest level and you're tired and you just had 10-plus meetings the night before and you're not really rested."

Johnson added: "It was very tiring and stressful, but you make the best of the opportunity because a lot of guys don't get to go to the combine so you make the best of it."

Indeed, only the top college football players in the country are invited to the league's annual event where they are carefully evaluated by NFL executives, coaches, and other personnel.

And while it's widely regarded as a rigorous ordeal, defensive lineman Danny Shelton — who was taken in the first round out of Washington — described it as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"You can't pass up the combine if you get an invitation. There's a lot of meetings, there's a lot of interviews," he said.

"But at the same time, you're meeting a lot of players that are big name players that could very well be Hall-of-Famers. You meet and hang out with these guys and you get to know them better."

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