BEREA — The Cleveland Browns turned their facilities over to high school athletes Sunday as more than 250 sophomore and junior football players from across Ohio and Pennsylvania took part in the annual Cleveland Browns High School Showcase.
The event, which was held in the Browns’ indoor practice facility, not only allowed high school players to hone their skills for the upcoming season but also catch the eye of college coaches from 19 Division II, III and NAIA schools in attendance as the athletes went through drills set up at different stations.
“I really want to get some exposure so colleges can see what I can do,” Avon Lake junior Connor Gorman said. “Getting yourself out there and getting seen is extremely important if you want to play college football. It’s also pretty amazing to come in here and see where the professionals practice every day.
“When I first walked in I was surprised how big it was.”
The showcase was held in two sessions with offensive and defensive linemen partaking in the afternoon session while all other players took the field in the morning.
Each group began by being tested in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, shuttle run and vertical jump just like potential NFL Draft picks were tested last month in Indianapolis at the combine. The players then broke out into groups where they worked on position-specific drills.
Brookside quarterback Tyler O’Malley, who attended a similar event last month in Massillon, said he saw an improvement in his vertical jump this time around.
“It’s very helpful to be able to get additional coaching and learn skills you can take with you to help you,” O’Malley said. “I knew what I was doing today. I had a better idea of what to expect. I think this can help me in the high school season and now I also know what the competition is like when I compare myself to other quarterbacks.”
North Ridgeville High School athletic director Matt Yunker used to run the High School Showcase when he was director of youth football for the Cleveland Browns. No surprise then that three Rangers — lineman Willy Hedberg, linebacker Jonah Bowden and running back Benjamin Rankin — were at the event.
For Rankin and Bowden it was their second time attending the showcase.
“All of these events are pretty much the same but you can pick up some great techniques that help you prepare for your high school season,” Rankin said. “I’ve also been spending a lot of time in the weight room and working on the drills we did here so that I could stand out.”
Bowden said he enjoyed the opportunity to improve his game as well as the chance, for at least one day, to share a field with the Cleveland Browns.
“A did a little bit better this year,” he said. “It was another great experience. It’s incredible that the Browns do this. It gives us a chance to be here and be seen by college coaches that could help us achieve our goals of making it to the next level. I’ve learned a lot from the drills and warm-up exercises we do here.”
Hedberg’s primary goal was to be seen by the college coaches.
“I’ve been jumping rope and lifting weights to get ready for this because I think this is a great chance to get myself noticed so I have more options after high school,” Hedberg said.