A Shot at the Dream, Part 1

What would you do if you had a chance to play for the Cleveland Browns? What if you were a fan who had always dreamed of wearing the orange and brown? A local player, North Olmstead's Mike Grzeskowiak, did get that chance. In part one of our interview with Mike, he talks about the process and his impressions from the moment he learned of the team's interest until Romeo Crennel walked in and said "Welcome to the NFL"...

Mike Grzeskowiak is from North Olmstead, Ohio and played his high school ball at Parma Holy Name. From there he went on to play for the University of Akron.

As a senior in 2004, Mike started all eleven games at right tackle. He was part of an offensive line that opened holes enabling running back Brett Biggs to rush for 871 yards. Mike also helped protect quarterback Charlie Frye, the Browns' third round pick in this years' draft, as he threw for 2,623 yards for the Zips. He has the ability to play all five offensive line positions.

The Browns gave him a chance to continue his playing career in Northeast Ohio when they asked him to take part in their Rookie Camp in early May. Mike was gracious enough to share with Bernie's Insiders what that experience was like.

Dale Galbraith, Bernie's Insiders: Being that you are from the area, am I right in my assumption that you grew up a Browns' fan?

Mike Grzeskowiak: I've been a Browns fan since I was born. We watched a video of the Browns' history on Saturday (during Browns' Rookie Camp) that had the Drive, the Fumble and the Move to Baltimore. Being a fan I remembered it like it was yesterday.

Dale: Who was your favorite player growing up?

Mike: I liked Kosar, but Eric Metcalf was my favorite player. 

Dale: When did you know the Browns were interested in you?

Mike: I learned that the Browns were first interested right after the draft ended Sunday at 6.

Dale: How many other teams expressed an interest in signing you?

Mike: There were two, Cleveland and Seattle.

Dale: How did your friends and family react when they heard that the Browns were willing to try you out?

Mike: I think they were more excited than I was. It took a little while for it to sink in for me.

Dale: Did the NFL scouts look more favorably toward you once you lost 40 pounds this off season?

Mike: It helped, it really showed that I was dedicated to playing ball on the next level.

Dale: Did the Browns go through your agent?

Mike: Yes, then after he set it up is when the Browns called me.

Dale: Who from the Browns contacted you?

Mike: Jeff Davidson (Browns' Offensive Line Coach)

Dale: What type of contract did you sign?

Mike: Weekend min-camp contract.

Dale: Did you have protection in case of injury?

Mike: Yes, I had very good coverage from the Browns.

Dale: Your brother Jeff also played on the offensive line for Akron (1997-01) then spent time with the Chicago Bears and NFL Europe before retiring from football. Did having a brother who went through similar experiences help you out in any way?

Mike: Yes, he has been my best coach through this whole entire process with my senior year and my Cleveland Browns experience.

Dale: How extensive was the physical given to you by the team?

Mike: It was very extensive, it went from 6:00 am to 11:30 am and they looked and tested for everything.

Dale: Did all the participants stay in one location through the weekend or were you permitted to commute from home?

Mike:  Yes, we all were required to stay at the Marriott just off Bagley Road.

Dale: How were your nerves when you walked through the doors at the Browns' Training Facility?

Mike: My nerves were at an all time high, the very first person I met was Ross Verba. He introduced himself to me, shook my hand, and said welcome to the Cleveland Browns. That was very exciting, being that I've watched the guy play for a while.

Dale: Tell me about the first meeting?

Mike: Our first meeting was Thursday, and the first thing that Coach Crennel said was, "Welcome to the NFL gentlemen." At that point, I knew that it was for real.

Dale: What was Romeo Crennel's speech like?

Mike: As a fan and a player, it was very inspiring. He told us that everything we did from walking down the hall to the way we practiced would be watched and evaluated.

Dale: How excited were you to put that orange helmet on?

Mike: It was a dream come true, I did it in front of the mirror in the locker room.

Dale: Did you get any photos or other memorabilia that you can put in the ol' trophy case that says "I was there....?"

Mike: I pretty much kept everything they gave me that they couldn't reuse. Shorts and a bunch of tee shirts mostly. Barry (McBride) also e-mailed me photos of camp which have already been blown up and framed. 

Tomorrow - Mike talks about the practices, the coaches, and how he took the news that he wouldn't be asked back for the team's full-squad minicamp...

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