Perrion Winfrey has been with the Browns for only two weeks, but the fourth-round rookie DT can already list several reasons as to why Cleveland has made all too much sense as his first NFL home.
He's already become a fan-favorite — Winfrey's bark-filled introductory press conference was the most viral highlight from the Browns' draft weekend, and it's led to fans showering him with barks in public and on social media.
"The love has been crazy," Winfrey said Friday on the first day of Browns rookie minicamp. "Immediately when I got off the plane, there were fans there with helmets and stuff. I don't even know how they got in the airport. I've been signing a whole bunch of signatures, and everybody has been showing love."
He's also No. 97. Winfrey wore that number at Lake Park High School in Chicago and at Iowa Western Community College, the JUCO school where Winfrey became the top JUCO recruit in the country in 2020 and positioned himself for an opportunity to attend Oklahoma for two years. He already had the number tattooed with a "9" on his right hand and "7" on his left with flames around the numbers symbolize the adversity he's overcome.
Winfrey said the number was the only one available to him from the Browns.
"I feel like it was destined, to be honest with you," he said.
Check out photos of all the Browns rookies in Cleveland — and catch them live on 'Browns Live: Meet the Rookies' on May 18
Add in the fact that Winfrey is joined by two other Oklahoma teammates drafted by the Browns in close friend and D-line companion DE Isaiah Thomas, a seventh-round pick, and WR Michael Woods II, a sixth-round pick, and it's easy to see why Winfrey has been able to embrace Cleveland so quickly.
He has everything he needs around him to feel comfortable and confident — including an opportunity to possibly become a big contributor from the start. The Browns are looking for two new starters for their defensive tackle rotation come training camp, and Winfrey, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound bull rusher, is certainly an option despite his rookie status. He became one of the top defensive tackles of the Big 12 in his two years with the Sooners by using his size and massive upper-body to win battles against blockers, leading to 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss last year, and the Browns believe those skills could translate instantly to the NFL.
Those traits stuck out in a big way in February at the Senior Bowl, where Winfrey won MVP. Several draft analysts predicted him to land as a Day 2 pick as a result, but he had to wait until the early portion of Day 3 to receive his phone call.
Any frustration from the draft slide, however, was short-lived once Winfrey realized what kind of opportunity he could have in Cleveland.
"I slipped in the draft, and at this point, it is what it is because I'm a part of a great organization and I have great players next to me," he said. "I'm in a defense where I could penetrate and disrupt things, so it was the best thing for me, to be honest."
Winfrey has another small link to Cleveland that's made his transition feel fitting — he idolizes NBA legend LeBron James, whom he actually spoke with on the phone after he signed with Klutch Sports Group, the same group that represents James.
"(He told me) just don't listen to the outside noise," Winfrey said. "Just to be the best version of myself every single day and try to be better than I was yesterday. Not so far looking at the destination, but enjoying the journey and falling in love with the grind, and then everything I want will come into play if I just put my head down and work."
Winfrey's career is only in its infant stages, but the job so far has come easy to him. He's the type of player who rarely runs out of energy, and the abundance of immediate comfort he's found in Cleveland has helped him channel it toward all things football.
"It's been amazing just being out here, finally getting to know what team I'm on," he said. "Just being able to be a part of an organization and knowing what organization I'll be on is great."