The Browns were going to select later in the first round but then traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. Everyone expected the Browns to take Johnny Manziel, but while Manziel was kept waiting in the "green room" the Browns called Gilbert's cell phone and then the commissioner announced his name and summoned him to the stage for the hug and picture posing.
"I had a feeling the Browns were going to draft me." Gilbert told the NFL Network after posing for pictures with a Browns jersey that had his name on it. "A couple of days ago they flew to Houston to meet me there in a hotel. They asked me a bunch of questions about my life, myself, and my family. I told them I was coming into and I would learn from Joe Hayden and that I wanted to earn the respect of the veteran players."
The move was surprising, but the rest of the story is that the Browns came back with their selection later in the first round and with Manziel still available took the Texas A&M quarterback. His wait was longer than the famous wait of Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers and he now is not even the top pick on his new team as Gilbert was selected ahead of the former Heisman Trophy winner and the most polarizing figure in the draft.
"For the Cleveland Browns to drop back and then move up and pass on Derek Carr (Fresno quarterback) and Johnny Football, I won't say it is mind boggling or the craziest thing that I've ever seen, but it is tremendously surprising," NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., of ESPN said immediately after the pick was made.
Gilbert was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award presented to college football's best defensive back in 2013, as well as a consensus All-American. He had the option to forgo his senior year and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, but chose to return and established himself as one of the premier defensive backs in the country.
Gilbert finished 2013 with seven interceptions, a total that lead the Big 12 and ranked fourth nationally. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns, bringing his career non-offensive touchdown total to eight.
As much of an impact as Gilbert made as a lock-down defender, he made just as much or more of an impact in the kick return game. Gilbert owns the OSU record and Big 12 record with six career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He ranks second all-time at OSU with 2,681 kickoff return yards and holds a career return average of 26.28 yards.
In addition to him being honored as a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, Gilbert was also a first-team Walter Camp All-American, first-team FWAA All-American, second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-Big 12 Coaches selection and first-team All-Big 12 Associated Press selection, and received several other honors.
"Justin is a very gifted football player who brings a lot to a team, both on defense and in the return game," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "He is a playmaker. His decision to come back to Oklahoma State for his senior season really paid off because he established himself as one of the top players in this year's draft. We're very proud of Justin and happy for both him and his family."
Gilbert makes it six first-round NFL picks under Gundy and that puts the Cowboys in some rare air when it comes to recent NFL Drafts and other Division I football powers.
Some of this story and all of the statistics below were provided by Oklahoma State athletic media relations.
2009 1 20 Brandon Pettigrew Lions TE
2010 1 6 Russell Okung Seahawks T
1 24 Dez Bryant Cowboys WR
2012 1 5 Justin Blackmon Jaguars WR
1 22 Brandon Weeden Browns QB
2014 1 8 Justin Gilbert Browns CB
*2014 NFL Draft picks not included
West Virginia 2
Kansas State 1
Texas Tech 1
*2014 NFL Draft picks not included
Oklahoma State 5
Florida State 5
North Carolina 5
1947 1 1 Bob Fenimore HB Chicago Bears
1947 1 Neill Armstrong OE Philadelphia Eagles
1948 1 Jim Spavital FB Chicago Cardinals
1970 1 25 John Ward G Minnesota Vikings
1974 1 18 Reuben Gant TE Buffalo Bills
1976 1 25 James White DT Minnesota Vikings
1977 1 12 Phil Dokes DT Buffalo Bills
1978 1 5 Terry Miller RB Buffalo Bills
1986 1 8 Leslie O'Neal DE San Diego Chargers
1989 1 3 Barry Sanders RB Detroit Lions
1989 1 16 Hart Lee Dykes WR New England Patriots
1998 1 28 R.W. McQuarters CB San Francisco 49ers
2003 1 9 Kevin Williams DE Minnesota Vikings
2004 1 31 Rashaun Woods WR San Francisco 49ers
2009 1 20 Brandon Pettigrew TE Detroit Lions
2010 1 6 Russell Okung OL Seattle Seahawks
2010 1 24 Dez Bryant WR Dallas Cowboys
2012 1 5 Justin Blackmon WR Jacksonville Jaguars
2014 1 8 Justin Gilbert CB Cleveland Browns