Football / Sports

Browns prospect Joel Bitonio felt late father's presence on draft day

BEREA, Ohio -- Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio wasn't among the 30 prospects invited to attend the NFL Draft in New York.

But Bitonio didn't mind staying home with his family in Long Beach, Calif. He watched television and waited in the house that his late father, Mike, worked so hard to improve.

Bitonio said he felt his father's presence when he was selected in the second round, 35th overall, by the Browns, on May 9.

"He built the house, not by hand. He did a lot of maintenance, fixed a lot of things and made a lot of things," Bitonio said Saturday at the Browns' rookie minicamp. "It was just easier on my family -- my grandparents, my uncle and my mom. Every�one could get there and it was a good atmosphere for it. We were excited when it happened."

Mike Bitonio competed in the early days of mixed martial arts. He laid flooring to make a living, but moonlighted in the sport and became legendary for a 1995 bloody bout against Bart Vale. Mike Bitonio died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 45.

When he talked about Joel Bitonio the night he was selected, Browns coach Mike Pettine mentioned the toughness and nastiness Bitonio displays, an attitude Bitonio said he took from his dad.

Bitonio said he has been working at left and right guard during the minicamp. He said he also played some at center in high school and took a few reps there at the Senior Bowl.

"I'm open for anything. If they want to start me at guard, center, I'm ready to go," Bitonio said.

Bitonio was thrilled he's now a professional football player.

"You kind of think about 'Man, this is what I have to do. That's not too bad,'��" he said. "I could play football every day.'��"


Johnny Manziel said Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains didn't perfectly recall what Manziel texted him on draft night when Loggains was interviewed by ESPN Arkansas 96.3 radio Thursday.

"He shoots me a text and he says, 'Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together,'��" Loggains told the station.

Loggains may have misquoted Manziel, or cleaned up his text.

"I don't know if that's exactly word for word," Manziel said. "It was something along those lines."

Told that T-shirts were already being printed with the phrase on it, Manziel said, "I'm sure there are. I'm sure coach (Kliff) Kingsbury in Lubbock will love that word." Kingsbury, coach at Texas Tech, was Texas A&M's offensive coordinator during Manziel's Heisman season in 2012.

Life as a temp

After cornerback Pierre Desir transferred from Division II Washburn College to rival Lindenwood University in 2011 so he and his wife could get help for their two children from their parents in St. Louis, Washburn refused to grant his release. That meant Desir received no scholarship at Lindenwood, forcing him to take minimum-wage, temporary jobs to pay his way and support his family.

Selected in the fourth round by the Browns, Desir said his days in 2012 and 2013 started at 5 a.m. and went until 10 or 11 p.m. as he worked and attended class and practice.

The weirdest temp job came during flood season in Missouri.

"We were in an apartment complex. Excuse my French, but I had to clean human feces," Desir said. "I had to take out furniture, clean out the water. They gave us knee-high boots, but the water was knee level. That was the worst one. Got $40 out of it, but I did it. I look back at it, it's not something I want to do again."

Friendly adversaries

Manziel said there hasn't been any tension between him and starting quarterback Brian Hoyer. Although coach Mike Pettine and owner Jimmy Haslam have said Manziel should act like a backup, a training camp battle is expected.

"We've been in the quarter�back meeting rooms probably three or four times throughout the week and it's been good. He obviously is really advanced in his knowledge of this because he's been here longer than I have," Manziel said.

Manziel realizes he needs that knowledge.

"Every time he gets on the board, any time he's talking or speaking, I'm taking what he's saying and trying to grasp that and use it moving forward, whether it's on the field or whatever," he said.

A different eye test

When Vince Young, who is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, tried out for the Browns recently, Pettine said that the former Texas star is built the way quarterbacks are supposed to look. Manziel, listed as 6 feet and 210 pounds is not the prototype, but Pettine said that's OK.

"You have to be able to see football differently. You have to think outside of the box. I think he proved it at Texas A&M that he was able to put together ridiculous numbers in the SEC that he really is an outside-of-the-mold guy," he said.

"There are some quarterbacks in the NFL that have proven they can be successful as 6-foot, 6-1 guys. We want a quarterback that can maximize our chances to win. Is he in the classic mold? He's not. But if you are creative and build the right team around him, you can be successful."

Change of allegiance

Running back Terrance West would have loved to play for his hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, one of the league's elite franchises. Now the former athletic shoe salesman will face the Ravens twice a year.

"I'm looking forward to it. Can't wait. Play the home team. I'm going to look at every game as the same," West said. "Everyone is going to come out and play. I'm going to come out to play. We have a goal and that's to win a championship."

Buckling down

Manziel said he hasn't gauged how fans have reacted to his selection because he hasn't been on social media.

"It's been great to hear what I've got the chance to hear and see, whether it's people in the building telling me certain things or getting a feeling from my parents or family friends telling me, but personally I haven't got the chance to experience it very much," he said.


Rookie linebacker Christian Kirksey, a third-round pick, missed practice because he was graduating from the University of Iowa. �� Pettine said if he had to decide Saturday, two unsigned players among the 35 invited for tryouts might be invited back. "There are a couple of guys that we have some really good feelings about," he said.

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