BEREA — The kid from Alabama has looked good through two days of rookie minicamp.
Make that the other kid from Alabama.
Running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick in the draft, came as advertised and has received the lion’s share of the publicity. But it’s Crimson Tide teammate Brad Smelley who has been the surprise of camp.
Smelley, a seventh-round pick playing H-back, caught several balls and showed good athleticism for his 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame. He had a big day in Alabama’s national championship win in January, catching a game-high seven passes for 39 yards. He calls receiving a strength.
“Absolutely. That’s something I work on every day,” he said Saturday after the morning practice of two-a-days. “I’ve worked on it all my life basically, so I feel comfortable catching the ball.”
H-back is a hybrid of a fullback and tight end. Smelley took repetitions in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage.
“Brad has already showed us that he can be somewhat multiple, position-wise,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He can play on the line of scrimmage, he can play in the backfield.”
The Browns used veteran tight end Alex Smith in a similar role last year. Smelley could also challenge Owen Marecic for time at fullback.
“I did both at Alabama the last four years,” Smelley said of tight end and fullback. “I feel comfortable doing both. Anything they ask me to do, I’m going to be ready to step up and do it.”
Playing fullback requires not only the ability to be a lead blocker, but the willingness and selflessness to sacrifice your body for the benefit of others. Fullbacks don’t have stats.
“I kind of like it and I did a lot of it at ’Bama and you’ve got to appreciate that role,” he said.
Smelley hasn’t been fazed by his first weekend in the NFL.
“It’s still football. It’s the same deal,” he said. “The field is still 50 yards wide and 100 yards long.”
Smelley is the equivalent of a kid who is from Columbus, then won two national championships for Ohio State. He grew up in Tuscaloosa and accepted Alabama coach Nick Saban’s scholarship offer his junior year in high school.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It was an unbelievable experience. Everything I thought it would be, it was more.
“We had season tickets growing up and I probably went to every ’Bama game as a kid. It was definitely my home.”
A reporter asked about Alabama’s place in college football.
“There’s a few powerhouses, but I’ve got to think Alabama’s right there at the pinnacle of it,” he said.
Look at that body
Richardson cuts quite a figure on the football field. After years of serious weight lifting, he’s muscle from head to toe.
“Wow. He is a very powerful man and he is powerfully built,” Shurmur said. “Don’t let the 5-9½ fool you, he is almost 230 pounds and that is a lot of muscle packed into that body.
“I think he’s got a very powerful build much like we thought when we drafted him, and it shows up on the field.”
The joke’s on him
Running backs coach Gary Brown had some fun at his own expense.
He became a target for ribbing in the lead-up to the draft after he was on the wrong end of a Richardson block at the Alabama pro day. Brown found himself on his back — and all over YouTube.
“Please don’t knock me down,” Brown told Richardson during a drill Friday.
“That was you?” Smelley asked. “Everybody saw that.”
“We try to put that behind us, but you know it’s going to come up every now and then,” Richardson said. “The whole coaching staff is still on him about that and I’m still laughing at him and he is still making jokes about it.”
Richardson said he’s enjoyed working with Brown.
“That guy is really down to earth and he makes sure that everyone is staying on the same page,” he said. “He is making sure that everyone is vibing and keeping together as a family.”
Shurmur was asked what stood out to him most from the first two days of minicamp.
“I think what impresses me the most is that a lot of the guys that we are talking about, I see the reasons why we drafted them,” he said. “I have not been disappointed in what these guys are.”
• Shurmur didn’t have an offseason last year because of the lockout and feels more comfortable as he starts his second year on the job.
“I have a very good feel for what our team is,” he said. “I have a pretty good idea of how the new players will fit in. I know the coaching staff, I know the administration and I know how the building works.
“I have a good feel for the importance of what we do to the community and I just know a lot more about the surroundings and I think that will help.”
The Browns announced the signing of eight draft choices that had been previously reported. Sixth-round linebacker Emmanuel Acho wasn’t included, but Scout.com then reported he agreed to a four-year deal.
The only unsigned rookies are Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden.
• Fourth-round receiver Travis Benjamin had a good day after a couple of drops Friday. He made nice plays on a pair of outs from Weeden.
• The minicamp ends today with a single morning practice. The rookies will join the veterans for voluntary workouts Monday.
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