There must be something Cleveland General Manager John Dorsey saw that led him to make the biggest surprise of the NFL draft’s third day. Dorsey traded with New England to move up nine spots and take embattled Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, a player with top-flight talent who spent the entire 2017 season suspended.
Callaway, selected in the fourth round and 105th overall, allegedly used stolen credit card information to fund accounts at the university book store. He also tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine, and fought another handful of marijuana charges during his college days.
His senior season at Florida, Callaway was found “not responsible” for sexual assault in a Title IX investigation. His accuser and her witnesses boycotted the hearing, which was presided over by a Gators athletics boosters who had previously donated money to the football program.
Callaway says he’s changed since the birth of his daughter, Aulani, in February.
“The main thing is, I take responsibility for everything I caused on myself, the things that could’ve been avoided,” he told NFL Network. “And the birth of my daughter, she changed my point of view on life. On everything. I’m just letting teams know I’m coming to work when I get the chance.”
“I was young. I was dumb. I was immature,” he told ESPN. “I’ve grown a lot, actually. Got a beautiful girl to look after, so I ain’t got no choice but to be a man.”
But for Cleveland, the choice falls in line with some risky draft choices who faced disciplinary issues in their pasts.
In 2012, the Browns drafted wide receiver Josh Gordon, who sprinted out to a phenomenal rookie season. But after a rash of police encounters and substance abuse issues, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the entire 2015 season. He missed the 2016 season as well when he elected to seek inpatient substance abuse care rather than return to the field.
Cleveland also selected Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 draft, but cut him loose after the 2015 season due in no small part to his partying habits.
But Dorsey, in his first year in Cleveland, said the Browns feel “comfortable” bringing Callaway on board and have a support system in place to keep him out of trouble, per ESPN.
“If you sit there and understand his situations and his life story,” Dorsey said, “you can see a guy that strives to like, actually loves the game of football, but he likes structure, he likes routine and as long as you can … you can see that there’s a degree of humility with this person.
“So you have to do your risk tolerance and say, ‘Okay, where are we here?’ And I thought this was the appropriate level to kind of make a move like this.”
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