The Boldest of Browns' Rookies Lied His Way Into the Tryout That Earned Him His Training Camp Invite
'Cleveland- Back in late March, Sheehy-Guiseppi was in need of a future.
He had been a junior college All-American kick returner for Phoenix College (not to be confused with the University of Phoenix online school). But when his 2016 season didn’t earn him a scholarship at Phoenix, he went in search of bigger opportunities.
Armed with a credit card and determination (and his game film), Sheehy-Guiseppi went on a tour of Division I universities in early 2017, hoping for a chance to show what he could do.
The trip to SEC and Big 12 schools wasn’t very fruitful. Only one school watched his tape. But he did get plenty of bad news. He learned that he had just one year of eligibility remaining (he had attended another juco prior to Phoenix). Also, he was nine credits short of being able to transfer.
And now he didn’t have enough money to return to school.
So Sheehy-Guiseppi hatched a plan to go pro.
“I’m going to go to Florida and start with the Tampa Bay Bucs and I’m going to go to every facility I can, go all the way across the country and see if I can just walk in there and give it a shot,” he said.
Sheehy-Guiseppi remained based in Arizona and trained for more than a year, looking for tryout opportunities while networking.
He drove to Las Vegas for a CFL tryout, paid his $100 to participate, ran a 40, did his workout, and then, nothing. After the tryout he learned that the odds of a player being signed from the event were slim to none.
An Arena Football League tryout for multiple teams in Atlanta didn’t work out, either.
Then, earlier this year, a connection made through a flag football league in Arizona paid off. A friend of a friend knew of an NFL workout in Miami. Sheehy-Guiseppi got the address and headed to Florida.
One problem, though. He wasn’t invited.
The flag football connection was reluctant to give out the address of the workout at first. But Sheehy-Guiseppi was desperate. He didn’t care if it was an invite-only event. This was an opportunity, and he’d make it work.
When he finally got the address, he also got some advice: look for Alonzo Highsmith at the workout.
Sheehy-Guiseppi typed the name into Google and found out he was the Browns’ vice president of player personnel. Good to know. He also made note of what Highsmith looked like.
Sheehy-Guiseppi made it to Miami and headed to the workout, where he was met with confusion. But he was prepared for that.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi. I’m here for the tryout.”
“Do you know Alonzo?”
“Yeah, I know Alonzo.”
The confidence paid off. Sheehy-Guiseppi had his foot in the door. To make sure his story didn’t fall apart, as soon as he saw Highsmith, he ran to him and introduced himself.
“I just knew I had to make it look like we were friends,” Sheehy-Guiseppi said. “Alonzo was real nice to me.”
The workout began and Sheehy-Guiseppi stood out. He caught punts, he caught passes, and, best of all, his 40 time was 4.38. Only five wide receivers at the 2019 NFL combine ran faster than that.
Speed. It got Highsmith’s attention.
About 30 minutes after the workout ended, Sheehy-Guiseppi’s phone rang. It was Highsmith, with an offer to visit Berea for an official tryout.
That was great news, but the tryout was a week away and he didn't have money to fly back home. He also didn't have money to rent a room for the entire week. So Sheehy-Guiseppi improvised, sleeping outside, sleeping at a 24-hour fitness center, and then outside a training facility he was using to prepare for his workout.
Train. Sleep. Eat very little. That was the schedule leading up to the biggest day of his life.
“Then we got a chance to see him for ourselves and you could see all of the explosive movement stuff that Alonzo was talking about,” said GM John Dorsey. “Then when you watch him field kicks and punts, you are going, ‘OK, he can do this kind of stuff.’
“Now, he has not played in a couple of years, but it will not be because of lack of determination because this is a very determined young man.”
Sheehy-Guiseppi became a member of the Browns on April 5.
While it's still quite far from having the type of happy ending that it's main protagonist has stopped at absolutely nothing in desperate search of, you can't deny the awesomeness of this story. Without a true (or even false, for that matter) minor league system, there are plenty of talented and worthwhile players that manage to slip through football's cracks due to no shortage of unfortunate circumstances. As a JUCO dropout that, to his lack of credits, couldn't find any other takers at the college level, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi might as well have been lubed up head-to-toe while trying to clear the gap in his athletic resume in leaping to the National Football League. For him to even find a way to earn himself a training camp to prove himself is a minor miracle disguised as a lesson to never let anything get in the way of your dreams. Therefore, I think we can look past the deceitful means necessary to achieve it in celebrating an accomplishment that is entirely unprecedented outside of fictional sports' cinema (i.e. Major League, as referenced in the article).
That being said, the fact that the Cleveland Browns happen to be the organization that had the wool pulled over their eyes by an irrationally confident nomad of a nobody wide receiver is a comforting reminder that they have yet to completely shed the lovable losers label. They are definitely heading in the right direction with what looks to be a favorable future under center and a superstar split out wide. However, waving through some dude who was last seen paying $100 to run around a field as a fundraiser for a CFL team to stand amongst the same position group as Odell Beckham Jr. is a sign that the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. hasn't exactly erased decades of dysfunction. They are going to have to prove positive their long overdue organizational pivot on the field, and I would imagine a good place to start is by doing a halfway decent job making sure people off the street can't just lie their way onto it. Even if this particularly persistent kid overcame absurd odds in proving he had every reason to be so cocksure in refusing to look back and running freakishly fast with quite the feel-good narrative once he did.