Anthony Schwartz couldn't ignore the butterflies in his stomach when he lined up for his first NFL snap and heard 76,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium roaring like a freight train.
Schwartz, the Browns' 2021 third-round pick, just wanted to get his first catch out of the way. He knew that was the fastest way to eradicate the nerves after playing for three years in front of the raucous crowds of the SEC as a speedy wideout from Auburn.
"It takes one or two plays for the first little jitters that everyone usually has," Schwartz said. "Once you get that first hit or first catch, you feel good."
Schwartz didn't have to wait too long for his first opportunity — and a chance to exhale.
On the Browns' seventh play from scrimmage, Schwartz caught a 16-yard pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield to convert on third down and silence the crowd. The Browns finished the drive with a touchdown and an 8-0 lead.
On the first play of the next drive, Mayfield went back to Schwartz again for a 44-yard deep ball. Schwartz, one of the fastest players on the field, was wide open. After briefly juggling the ball, he squeezed it to his chest and fell to the ground to complete the catch and move the Browns back into Chiefs territory.
Just like that, the butterflies were gone and the crowd was silent.
"You just want that one deep ball," he said, "and it shows that you're good."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Chiefs yesterday by the Browns photo team
Schwartz finished the 33-29 loss with three catches for 69 yards and spent most of the game as the Browns' leading receiver. He was targeted five times — the same amount as Jarvis Landry and David Njoku, the only two receivers to finish with more receiving yards — and was clearly a key ingredient to the offensive attack head coach Kevin Stefanski planned against the Chiefs.
With top receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined with a knee injury, Schwartz was called to provide a lift to the receivers room.
"I thought it was positive overall for Anthony in his first NFL game," Stefanski said. "I just think to all of these rookies and guys playing for the first time, they are going to grow in their roles and they are going to get better, but I thought that was a good start for Anthony."
Two of Schwartz's biggest plays were among the fastest in the NFL in Week 1. His 44-yard catch was recorded after he reached 20.23 mph on his route, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He topped that speed later with a 17-yard rush where he was clocked at 20.43 mph.
Schwartz was perhaps the speediest player on the field. His 4.25 40-yard dash time was a few ticks quicker than the 4.29 time of Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, regarded as one of the fastest players in the league. The Browns certainly managed to maximize his speed.
The 44-yard catch and 17-yard run were just two of many examples Stefanski chalked up when the Browns drafted Schwartz with the 91st overall pick, and it's safe to assume those play calls were only a glimpse of what the Browns believe they can do with Schwartz in their playbook.
"Schwartzy looked great," Mayfield said. "I'm proud of him for how he played. He's a guy that's going to continue to grow as he learns our offense and little nuances. His feet, obviously, were on display today. He's a guy that we're lucky to have in our offense."
The performance was even more impressive considering the start Schwartz had to his NFL career in minicamp and training camp, where he was sidelined for most practices in each setting due to a hamstring injury. His rehab plan kept him as a limited participant until the final week of practice leading up to Week 1.
Schwartz wasn't listed on the injury report, but it would've been understandable if the Browns limited his gameday workload as he continues to acclimate to the NFL level and make up for his lost practice time.
No wait was needed.
"I prepare like I'm playing 90 snaps a game, so when my number was called, I just had to go in and do what I was supposed to do," he said. "I'm always preparing like I'm going to get the ball every time, so whenever there is a pass play called, I think I am going to get the ball every time."
Not everything was perfect for Schwartz.
He was involved in one of the Browns' most pivotal moments late in the game when Mayfield attempted a deep pass on third-and-7 with five minutes left. Schwartz leaped and placed both hands on the ball, but Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill pried it loose for an incompletion.
Mayfield blamed himself for not spotting the pass in a more catchable area. Schwartz countered that and said all blame is on him.
"I see it as a ball I should have caught," he said. "Whenever the ball is in my vicinity, it is my ball. I need to go get it, and so it doesn't matter if the throw is 10 yards in front of me, right behind me. It doesn't matter where the ball is in the air — it's mine. It's a play that I should have come down with, and it won't happen again."
That play, though, is behind Schwartz. The Browns won't let it overshadow the other promising work he displayed in his NFL debut, a setting that rarely yields mistake-free performances from rookie receivers.
Schwartz will have plenty of other big-moment opportunities in his future. His confidence began ascending as soon as he knocked out his first few NFL catches, and the Browns are gearing up to give him more.
"I knew I would be able to come in and do whatever was asked of me," he said. "I was proud I was able to do that."