As it turns out, the kid from Cloverleaf is still just a kid from Cloverleaf.
There’s been plenty to change his mindset.
His four years of Division I football, three of them with All-Ivy League honors and one as an All-American. His draft selection into the NFL, which came in the fourth round (No. 130 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens. Or what might be the most impressive part of his resume: an economics degree from Harvard.
The kid, Kyle Juszczyk, returned to Northeast Ohio to partake in the NFL Rookie Symposium, a chance for future NFL stars and local kids to run around and interact for a day. For the second year in a row, it was held at the Browns’ training facility in Berea.
The kids have a good time. The players do as well, for the most part. Then there was Juszczyk and his Ravens teammates (each team had its group of 2013 rookies in a station somewhere on the field). At one point, one of the symposium staffers asked, “So who are the kids and who are the players?” as Juszczyk was doubled over laughing with a little girl who had just spun around him in a throw-and-catch drill.
“I think we might be having a little too much fun if you ask me,” he said during the symposium. “We’re starting to work up a sweat. This brings out the kid in all of us.”
Juszczyk is an NFL player now. His mentality hasn’t changed from when he regularly attended Browns practices as a youngster.
“This is great on a number of levels,” Juszczyk said. “It’s great to be out here, working with the kids, getting some interaction. I used to be at the Browns training facility for practice when I was younger. To be back here as a player is really cool.
“It’s started to sink in a little bit. It feels comfortable now. I have my teammates, I feel like I’m a part of the team now. I couldn’t be happier.”
Juszczyk was a tight end at Harvard and finished in the top 10 in school history at his position in catches (125), receiving yards (1,576) and touchdown catches (22). But for the Ravens, Juszczyk will take on a versatile role, primarily lining up at fullback. A lot has been thrown at him during what practice time has been allotted by the NFL. Already, he’s lined up at fullback, tight end and even in the slot as a receiver. NFL playbooks are expansive enough for a young player without also having to digest it from the vantage point of multiple positions.
The kid from Cloverleaf enjoys the challenge.
“At first, it was a lot of information to grasp,” he said. “It’s really always been something about football that I love, being asked to do many different things and being able to really dive into the playbook and know a big chunk of it.
“I do like that feeling of versatility, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t care less what position they put in front of my name.”
For the moment, that’ll be fullback. Juszczyk could have an opportunity to earn playing time right away because last year’s fullback, Vonta Leach, is still a free agent and looking for a new home. Juszczyk might switch positions and find a starting spot in the NFL all in one summer. And a pretty big name has been assisting with the transition.
“Ray Rice has been a lot of help,” Juszczyk said of the Ravens running back who gained more than 1,600 total yards and scored 10 touchdowns last season. “Any time I have a question, he has an answer. Even when I don’t ask, he’s always got little tidbits of that veteran leadership. He’s always dropping little bits of knowledge for me. It definitely helps to have someone like him running behind you.”
Juszczyk looked perfectly at home during his day at the Rookie Symposium, laughing with a couple of kids. By fall, he has a chance to be the lead blocker for the one of the NFL’s better running backs, not to mention it’ll be with the defending Super Bowl champs.
It’s sunk in that he’s a professional football player now, but it hasn’t affected his outlook. He’ll still just be the kid from Cloverleaf.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.