C’mon down, John Hughes. You’re the next contestant on “Who Will Replace Phil Taylor at Defensive Tackle?”
That's right, John, In spite of all the criticism your new pro football team, the Cleveland Browns has received for drafting you way too early in last month's college football draft, you will get an immediate opportunity to prove how wrong they were.
They said you were what is termed in the biz as a reach when they grabbed you in the third round. No way you should have been picked that high.You were more like a fifth- or sixth-rounder at best. And what were the Browns thinking with much better players still on the board?
None of the draft gurus ranked you even close to the top part of your position class. One had to look in the bottom third to find you. And there were a few so-called experts who believed you had no shot at being drafted. Talk about the ultimate slap in the face.
And now, you come into OTAs and minicamp in the coming weeks as a clear underdog, albeit with the knowledge that you could upset the world and win a spot as a starting defensive tackle.
With Taylor out for who knows how long with a torn pectoral muscle after lifting weights, of all things, now is your opportunity to thumb your nose at the critics who raised eyebrows and shrugged shoulders with a who’s-he look on their faces when your name was announced at the draft.
You come into camp wearing a king-sized bull’s-eye. You are now the man. All eyes will be on you, looking for the reasons Tom Heckert Jr. believed you could become a positive force for his football team.
No pressure at all. After all, you’re just a rookie. With Ahtyba Rubin and Taylor manning the defensive tackle spots on a regular basis, you were expected to be the guy to come off the bench and give them an occasional rest.
You arrived with solid credentials, according to Heckert, on stopping the run, the Browns’ Achilles’ heel for the last dozen or so seasons. Sure, they were ranked 10th on defense last season, but that was because opposing teams didn’t have to throw the ball to beat them.
And that’s where you entered Heckert’s world. He wanted a run stuffer and determined you were that guy after a solid second half of the season down at the University of Cincinnati.
Only one problem. He envisioned you as a part-time player because he already had two guys he could count on. And perhaps it’s because you’re slightly undersized at 6-2, 310 pounds. Taylor, by comparison, is 6-4, 350-plus pounds.
This is the perfect stage for you now, John, No one expects you to come in and become an instant sensation No one expects you to tear up training camp and prove all your critics wrong.
In fact, most of those critics in the wake of Taylor’s injury no doubt will dismiss you and strongly suggest Heckert scan the free-agent market in an attempt to keep you in the role for which you were drafted.
This obviously is not how you thought your pro career was going to start. Your mind-set certainly has changed now that Taylor is on the shelf for at least the first half of the season, if not longer.
You were a starter at Cincinnati. You’re used to being in there on just about every play. And now, you get the opportunity to do the same thing with the Browns. Consider yourself extremely fortunate.
Fate has a way of altering the direction of lives. It looks as though the direction of your life has taken a sudden and most unexpected turn. Time to adjust. Time to take advantage.
This might be your only opportunity to prove Heckert knew exactly what he was doing and, at the same time, silence the critics, lowering those eyebrows and unshrugging those shoulders.
No sweat, John. No problem. All you have to do is be yourself. Come into camp, listen to your position coach, hustle all the time, strive for perfection, become a sponge and keep your nose clean.
That’s not so difficult, is it?
Piece of cake.