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Charismatic Johnny ‘Football’ just what Cleveland needed

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Whatever star alignment claims responsibility for putting the NFL’s most boring helmet on the most electrifying college football player of his generation possesses an interesting sense of humor.

Johnny “Football” Manziel is a Cleveland Brown. Let that soak in for awhile.

In the few seconds it took for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to broadcast the 22nd overall selection, everything about Cleveland — the city, the franchise, the overall pro sports vibe in general — suddenly mattered again.

Just like that.

One of four franchises still seeking a first trip to a Super Bowl (Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville are the others), the Browns have been mostly torturing one of professional sports’ most loyal fan bases since returning in 1999 after their four-year Modell-induced coma.

Cleveland fans are so passionate about their Browns they would sell out FirstEnergy Stadium for 20 minutes dedicated to Brian Sipe, Leroy Kelly and Fair Hooker highlights.

I’m exaggerating. Slightly.

My lone football excursion to Cleveland came as a 10-year-old boy to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers face the Browns in September 1972 (I still have the framed ticket stubs). Cleveland legend Rocco Scotti performed the National Anthem.

Wedged between my father and brother, I continued to lean to my right or left to see game action as my upper-deck seat was directly behind one of the old stadium’s many steel girders.

Now I feel like making a return trip. Johnny Cleveland is here. Let the sting of previous disappointments gradually subside.

In Manziel, the NFL inherits a one-man marketing machine who’ll be everywhere in Cleveland — billboards, television commercials, ribbon-cuttings, magazine covers. Jerseys with Manziel’s No. 2 will sell out, restock, and sell out again over and over again.

On the field the Browns have made the sizable leap from must-avoid to must-see TV. National media outlets will follow Cleveland in a way they haven’t since Bernie Kosar was slinging side-armed passes to Reggie Langhorne and Webster Slaughter.

It’s a lot for a kid Manziel’s age to digest, but he’ll do great. Best of all, no professional sports city or fan base deserves this more.

Only time will tell for Colts

The five players taken by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 NFL Draft all have something else in common — prior to this past weekend I had never heard of any of them.

And that’s OK. If memory serves, some of the franchise’s best players were once no-names themselves.

No one was doing cartwheels in 2003 when Robert Mathis was drafted in the fifth round out of Alabama A&M. More recently, the 2012 draft alone produced no less than four shoulder shrugs (Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard and Josh Chapman) who are now counted on to produce.

General Manager Ryan Grigson addressed the offensive line with two versatile linemen (Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort and Georgia State’s Ulrick John), nabbed a potential diamond in the rough in physical receiver Donte Moncrief and then went defense with end Jonathan Newsome and Western Kentucky linebacker Andrew Jackson.

It’s always amusing to see writers slap grades on the draft classes of all 32 NFL teams. A “B-plus” for these guys and a “D-minus” for that team.

I saw where one online service gave Grigson a “C” for his efforts.

We just don’t know.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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