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Cleveland Browns

Team signs linebacker McCune, guard Murray

By dan Published: August 20, 2009

The Browns made two roster moves today signing linebacker Robert McCune and guard Patrick Murray. To make room on the roster, offensive lineman Brandon Braxton and receiver Edward Williams were waived.

Murray played in one game last season for the Denver Broncos. McCune is on his fourth team since being taken by the Washington Redskins in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. He spent parts of last season on the Baltimore Ravens' roster.

McCune had a unique journey to the NFL. After the jump, you'll find his story, written by Browns beat writer Marla Ridenour April 23, 2005.


The linebacker out of Louisville might be one the most intriguing choices in this weekend's NFL Draft. Robert McCune served three years of active duty in the Army before he walked on with the Cardinals, so he will be a 26-year-old NFL rookie.

It's hard to tell whether the Browns will be interested in a 6-foot, 245-pounder for an inside spot in their 3-4 scheme even if he is "built like a rock," in the words of general manager Phil Savage.

But teams that value maturity and character will consider a man who lifted a boulder in the desert of Kuwait just to stay in shape.

Overlooked Robert McCune hoped to go to Auburn or Alabama when he left LeFlore High School in Mobile, Ala. in 1997. But his dream colleges weren't calling. He earned four prep letters in track and field, only two in football. He was nicknamed "Hammer" as a child for his tackling ability, but was just discovering the value of weight training. Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Southern and Grambling wanted him, but McCune really didn't want them.

So he listened to his older sister Georgia Boyd, who convinced him to enlist in the Army. Boyd had spent eight years as a missile technician and never was sent overseas. With Boyd's help, McCune crafted his plan. The military would give him an opportunity to travel, time to grow up and money for college. When he returned, he would take advantage of the G.I. bill and walk-on at a big-time school.

It sounded simple enough.

Pvt. Robert McCune was deployed to Korea, where he spent a year. An 18-year-old petroleum specialist, he drove a truck that supplied fuel for the Second Infantry Division. For the first two months he was homesick.

The squalor the Korean people endured was appalling. They lived in shacks. The water was filthy, the air smelled like sewage.

During monsoon season it rained for a week. The water in his barracks rose and McCune's unit climbed out the window to safety. They spent the night on the roof, lightning crackling above, as everything they owned was swept away.

Koreans below were caught in the flood. Many of them died.

His next destination was Kuwait, where McCune was part of a peace-keeping mission for six months. He carried a rifle every day but didn't fire a shot.

Through it all, McCune never lost sight of his plan to go to college. He joined the Army powerlifting team and won several first- and second-place trophies. Being stuck in the desert of Kuwait made lifting more difficult, but McCune improvised. He found a building with a hanging roof that he used for pull-ups. He discovered a 50-pound rock and kept it in his truck so he could lift it whenever he had a spare moment. He kept the same one for two or three months before he found a longer one more suited for biceps curls.

His buddies laughed. He told them when his tour was up he was going to play football.

Yeah, right, they said.

Linebacker Robert McCune came home and Auburn and Alabama still didn't want him. His cousin Tiger Jones had received a scholarship to Louisville and the receiver was on his way to the Bluegrass State.

Jones arranged for McCune to meet the coach first thing in the morning. When coach John L. Smith arrived at 6:30, McCune was sitting outside the locked door. Smith figured the kid might have something.

Later that afternoon, Smith saw that for sure when he worked out McCune. The guy had a body like a Greek god and was amazingly fast. Smith told him he'd see him on the field tomorrow.

McCune was no overnight sensation. He redshirted as a freshman in 2000, but earned a scholarship after one semester. The next season he became Louisville's special teams player of the year. He was a key reserve as a sophomore and started late in the season.

Smith was patient. He knew it would take McCune a while to catch up to the speed of the game after the long layoff. But Smith figured it was just a matter of time before the player who could run sideline to sideline had a breakout year.

That happened in 2003 after Smith left for Michigan State. McCune started all 13 games at middle linebacker as a junior and led the team in tackles with 143. As a senior he started slowly after arthroscopic knee surgery, but made 115 tackles and was named first-team All-Conference USA.

Meanwhile, McCune rose to corporal in the Kentucky National Guard. Twice his unit was put on alert, but McCune was never recalled. He completed his service in December, the same month he received his degree in physical education.

From then on, it's been all football.

Draft prospect Robert McCune wanted to make the most of his shot at the pros so he and his cousin went to Duluth, Ga., to train with Chip Smith of Competitive Edge Sports. Smith has put more than 600 players in the NFL, but never one with the physical presence of McCune. During his seven weeks, young players were drawn to McCune because of his physique and charisma.

McCune has muscle on top of muscle, yet his 40 time of 4.31 seconds was the second best of the nearly 40 players. Everyone was blown away by the fact that a 245-pound man could move that fast.

Smith e-mailed Under Armor, one of his sponsors that makes tight-fitting athletic clothing, and told them he had found their model. An endorsement contract is being discussed.

Today Cpl. McCune, make that linebacker McCune, will sit in the same town where a hotshot eight years ago thought he was good enough for Auburn or Alabama.

And he will wait.


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