As the Cleveland Browns open training camp, there is one undrafted player currently flying under the radar.
We know that everyone loves an underdog.
Undrafted out of small Division II Southwest Oklahoma State, Browns wide receiver Johnathan Haggerty received praise and caught the attention of coaches with a solid performance last month during OTAs.
Although his strong play during practices was in shorts, the fact that he ran crisp routes, caught the ball extremely well, and a had a good rapport with Jake Delhomme is at the very least a cause for optimism.
Coming into a situation in Cleveland where there is a very open competition for a roster spot at wide receiver, Haggerty is looking to do the unthinkable—catch on in the NFL as an undrafted free agent from a very small school.
He recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with Stephany Speck of OKBlitz.com, where he talked about his experience of the NFL’s free agent process, his new friendships with teammates, and his strong faith in God.
Let’s Just Say…There are Some Interested Parties
At 6’1” and 195 lbs, Haggerty isn’t a physical freak, but that didn’t stop other NFL teams from noticing him as they obviously saw something worth pursuing.
He mentioned that five teams showed interest in him before, during, and after the draft. Minnesota, Cleveland, Green Bay, Dallas, and Atlanta were the teams that reached out to him, but he ultimately decided to choose the Browns.
“Cleveland called me, and I was excited to get the call from Cleveland because they kept great communication throughout the whole process, and I could tell that they were pretty interested in me and interested in giving me a shot.”
He felt the Browns offered him the best chance to come in and legitimately compete for a roster spot, and referenced Eric Mangini as being a reason he decided to begin his professional football career in Cleveland.
New Friends and New Experiences
Haggerty also speaks about the commonality of religion and the bonds he has made with Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Chansi Stuckey. He goes on to mention his visit to a hospital with other members of the team, where he was able to spend his time with children who have breathing disabilities.
“It was the most…humbling experience, just to let us know not to take our lives for granted. Our team enjoys that, and that’s what Eric Mangini instills in us…those core characteristics. Smart, tough, hard-working, selfless.”
It’s understandable that a player like Haggerty would become friends with Josh Cribbs. He’s attempting to make it into the NFL in the same exact way as Cribbs—as an undrafted free agent. Having a humble, honest, and hard-working player like Josh Cribbs take him under his wing may very well be the most beneficial thing Haggerty has going for him.
When asked whether or not he’s developed a relationship with Colt McCoy, Haggerty had this to say,
“Yes! Colt McCoy is my boy. He became one of my best friends; him and Larry Asante. We Bible study almost every other day. [McCoy] is cool, he’s funny, and I think a lot of people don‘t like Colt because of football. If you were to meet Colt McCoy, you would eat your words. I challenge anybody who doesn’t like him…if you meet him as a person, that guy is incredible.”
A Little Notoriety, Honesty, and Modesty
He was also questioned about an article written about him in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on June 12, but Haggerty said he had no clue about it until friends and members of his family texted him congratulatory messages.
“I had no idea that the article was written in the first place, because for me in Cleveland I would just go to sleep, eat, practice, and study that playbook,” Haggerty said. “I had no time to go on the Internet.”
This does sound believable, and if true, really displays the kind of work ethic and desire that the young wide receiver actually has.
After organized team activities, he also apparently left for Denver a couple of weeks ago to work out in the high altitudes to get himself ready for training camp.
Are you kidding me?
Even at the young age of 22, Johnathan Haggerty walks, talks, and acts like a football player that gets it. Call it a bit of “Swaggerty,” if you will.
Common Understandable Traits
Haggerty also apparently appreciates the fact that head coach Eric Mangini ultimately values being a good person and a hard worker above all else.
“It’s truly special when a coach is looking at a guy who works hard. That motivates me to working harder because I want to be a part of this team. I want to be a part of something special.”
This sounds like the exact type of player that Mangini and the new regime are looking to acquire now and into the future. This may very well be a perfect match.
Winding Down, Then Winding Up
During the rest of the conversation, he goes on to speak about how his mother is the influence on his life, as well as being his personal hero. Overall, it’s a very positive interview well worth the watch.
In total, there are four videos on OKBlitz.com—one is a news segment, two are six-minute long interviews, and the other is actually a two-and-a-half minute long highlight video.
If you want to see rare video of Jonathan Haggerty in action as a Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldog, I strongly recommend you visit the website. Also, be sure to check out the one-handed catch at 0:19 and the outstanding block he makes at 1:20, which is my personal favorite.
The Odds (Stacked, But Not Too Stacked)
Now, I realize he’s from a Division II school. I also realize that the odds are stacked against him, but at the same time I realize that it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility for him to succeed in the NFL. That’s a lot of realization.
Before anyone discounts this guy because he comes from a small college, keep in mind these following names and corresponding universities:
Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Terrell Owens (Tennessee-Chattanooga), Randy Moss (Marshall), Andre Reed (Kutztown Pennsylvania), Marques Colston (Hofstra), Vincent Jackson (Northern Colorado), Donald Driver (Alcorn State), and most recently Pierre Garcon (Mount Union).
There are also plenty of small-school talents found at every position in the NFL, so needless to say, Haggerty definitely has a legitimate chance to make it in this league.
During training camp, the battle between Haggerty and sixth round draft choice Carlton Mitchell should be extremely interesting. Mitchell is a larger receiver at 6’3” 215 lbs, but it’s been said that he must improve in certain areas of his game like consistently catching the ball with his hands and properly running routes.
Haggerty may have the upper hand right now because it looks like he’s coming right out of the box, fully-assembled, with batteries included.
All that aside, Johnathan Haggerty seems to resonate confidence and appears to be in a situation that is beneficial to both himself and the team. It sounds like he actually wants to be in Cleveland.
He’s been given an opportunity so the rest is up to him—but it’s safe to say that he is making the absolute most of it.
I mean, look at that picture...he's just another dawg joining a new pack.