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Surprise prom date leaves lasting impression on Browns OL Cameron Erving

You can still find the photos of Browns center Cameron Erving and Elna Wright, the 17-year-old Elyria High School senior whom he took to prom Saturday, circulating over social media and across the internet.

They're living snapshots of a weekend to remember, where their paths crossed briefly for a few hours on a warm May evening. But the memories from that night — what they mean, and how they still feel — are almost sure to last a lifetime.

"It was basically kind of a last-minute thing. I jumped at the opportunity because I felt like it was something that she deserved," Erving told

"I mean, I heard the story of how her boyfriend passed away and I know how she didn't have a date at the time. I jumped at the opportunity because I felt like, in my heart, it was the right thing to do."

Wright — who is nonverbal and uses a wheelchair because of a progressive disorder known as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia — is as popular as they come at Elyria High. The vivacious teenager was crowned the school's homecoming queen in October and students here know her by her wide and bright smile.

"Everybody in that city knows her and she has an infectious personality," Erving said. "And although she can't talk, she communicates really well with people so I saw that and just the smile on her face and how she lights up a room."

But Wright's boyfriend passed away last fall, leaving her without a date to prom. So her parents — Ingrid and Ebony — harnessed the power of Twitter to see if one of Northeast Ohio's athletes might be willing to accompany their daughter — a big Cleveland sports fan — to the biggest dance of the year.

"My husband decided to put it out there," Ingrid Wright told in a phone interview. "I was apprehensive at first … I thought 'Oh boy.'"

But the Wrights received encouraging feedback.

And then?

"We got the word Cam was in," Ingrid said. "He wanted to take her. No hesitation."

The Wrights told Elna, who was understandably "ecstatic" to hear she would be going to the prom and going with a Cleveland football player.

"She loves the Browns," Ingrid said. "She was on top of the world, on Cloud 9. She was overwhelmed, she was so excited."

And Erving, the former 2015 first-round draft pick who's entering his second year with the Browns, was determined to make it a night to remember.

"He wanted to do it right," Ingrid said, "he wanted her to have a great experience."

So Erving set up a limousine. He went and had himself fitted for a tuxedo in Strongsville that morning. He drove to the Wrights house in Elyria later in the afternoon and introduced himself to the Wrights and extended family members, who came in to watch Elna set off for her big night.

"It was just awesome to see the love that they have," Erving said. "It's so pure."

Erving and Elna posed for photos in the town's historic Ely Square. And finally, they set out for the main event. "We went in and took pictures in the downtown area before and everybody was just like 'Oh my gosh! Elna, you're so beautiful!' And it's just like, it's awesome. Lack of words," Erving said.

"It was just very crazy. Everybody there knew her and everybody there knew her infectious smile and everybody was commenting on how she looked and she was just smiling. She lit the whole place up."

Erving said his prom experience with Elna offered him perspective; he's had time to let the experience sink in over the past few days.

"I think it definitely means more to me now than the day of. Like, I don't want to get into talking about me, but just personally everything that I went through on the field and as a player, I wasn't in my element. I didn't give back and I didn't do the things that I did when I was in college," he said.

"It was just like I was lost. And I've come back and been more involved in the community and give back a little bit. Just to see how happy she was all the time, to see her smile, it made my day.

"And it made me realize that, regardless of what happens on the football field, people are going to remember what you do off the field," he continued.

"They may remember what happens on the field, but people are always going to remember what you do off the field. And I want to be remembered as someone who cares about people genuinely. And that's all that matters to me."

Consider last weekend a token of that outlook.

"He was amazing, the way he pushed her through the park," Ingrid said.

"He had the wheelchair like he's known her forever."

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