2020 NFL Draft

Throwback Thursday: Once 'unheralded,' Earnest Byner reflects on legendary career

Legendary Browns running back Earnest Byner spoke with ClevelandBrowns.com earlier this week, offering his take on first-year coach Hue Jackson and executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown.

So it seems fitting to spotlight Byner in this week's edition of Throwback Thursday.

While Byner remains one of Cleveland's best running backs of all time, he entered the league as a little-known prospect out of East Carolina, scooped up by the Browns in the 10th round of the 1984 NFL Draft.

"I just wanted to be drafted to tell you the truth because I had a wife and a baby girl at that point. I just wanted to be drafted," he said.

"I had heard I was going to be drafted — maybe in the fourth round — but it didn't happen. I was on Day 2, almost the 11th round. Got drafted in the 10th round. It was either the last pick or the next-to-last pick."

But Byner — who described himself as an "unheralded" kid from ECU with little expectations — said he had a feeling he could make it in the NFL.

"For some reason, my agent — we were sitting across the table like you and I are — and I had the confidence to tell him all I need is a chance to get on the team and I can play," he said.

"What gave me that insight? I don't know. But when I initially got (to Cleveland) and got started, it was like almost automatic, like it was destiny that I would be on the Browns team and eventually get a chance at making something of myself, making myself into a player."

The Browns returned to Berea this week to begin offseason workouts.

Byner — who spent 14 seasons in the NFL — played for the Browns from 1984 to 1988 and came back to Cleveland from 1994-1995 before calling it a career in 1997. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1991.

When it was all said and done, Byner ranked 16th on the league's all-time rushing list with 8,261 yards and 56 touchdowns. A versatile player, he also amassed 4,605 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.

While Byner was a star in his own right, he was particularly effective when paired with teammate and fellow Browns legend Kevin Mack, combining for 1,000 yards in 1985. The two also helped Cleveland reach the AFC Championship Game in 1986 and 1987.

"One of things I enjoyed doing was challenging other guys and the only way I could do that was by giving my absolute best," Byner said. "They knew what they were going to get."

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