For Florida cornerback Joe Haden, playing in the same city with Cavaliers star LeBron James wasn't just an added perk to being selected seventh by the Browns Thursday night.
Asked Friday afternoon about the chance to see James in person, Haden responded almost breathlessly.
''Oh my goodness, I love LeBron,'' Haden gushed at his introductory press conference. ''I was so excited about Cleveland. I was like, 'Now he can’t go anywhere because it might break my heart.' I’m trying to figure out how to get in touch with him and text him or something and take him out to eat and make sure he doesn’t leave.''
Haden said he started following James during his days at St. Vincent-St. Mary.
''When I watched him play, I love his game and his personality,'' Haden said. ''He’s a people person, making people laugh on the sideline and having a good time. I feel that’s what I like to do. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.''
Haden was a quarterback at Friendly High in Fort Washington, Md., but also started at point guard on a team that won two state titles. He confirmed a story that he could dunk as a freshman.
''I could windmill, as a matter of fact,'' he said. ''I was pretty good at basketball.''
But Haden will not be challenging James on his turf, not even for a game of horse.
''No, no, I wasn't that good,'' Haden said.
Haden may be buying some Cavs tickets, joining Browns receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs, frequently spotted at Quicken Loans Arena.
''Of course. I was hoping LeBron could hook me up so I don't have to buy 'em. I'll try to be courtside like Jay-Z,'' Haden said.
Asked to describe his personality, Haden said, ''Outgoing, funny, just like to have a good time. I can’t stand being around people who try to bring me down. All this stuff is so humbling to me. I try to sign every autograph, I try to take pictures with everybody.
''I just feel like I’m blessed, because I know if I was out there and I wanted to meet somebody I would definitely want him to sign my stuff. Just embracing the whole moment and knowing that any time it could get taken away from you, so just don’t be too cocky and arrogant about what you have.''
But that changes when Haden puts on his uniform.
''I was talking about off the field. On the field, swagger's got to be out of control,'' Haden said. ''You definitely have to know how good you are.''
Browns president Mike Holmgren made his first appearance of the draft during the photo shoot with Haden and seemed thrilled by Haden's skills and personality.
''He's one of the great young men I've ever had the privilege of studying and meeting,'' Holmgren said. ''As far as how we feel about this first pick, I really believe we hit a home run. There has been a lot of speculation on what our approach to the draft was, what we'd decide to do and all that. This young guy was in our sights from a while ago. We feel very fortunate to have been able to draft him. My hope is, of course I'm getting up there in years, is you'll be here a lot longer after I'm gone.''
Haden said he knew only one Browns' player, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, whom he met at a training center in Miami when he went to hang out with teammate and fellow draft prospect Major Wright, a junior strong safety.
''Corner Eric Wright texted me last night to congratulate me and told me he was going to hang out with me when I got up here,'' Haden said. ''I got about four texts from players that didn’t say their name, I didn’t know who it was yet.''
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