The Cleveland Browns traded up in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select troubled wide receiver Antonio Callaway. The decision was met with more than a few raised eyebrows — especially for a team looking to change its losing culture.
Callaway was suspended twice at Florida and missed the entire 2017 season for allegedly using stolen credit card information to fund bookstore accounts.
A year ago he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and possession of drug equipment. In 2016, he was cleared of sexual assault allegations. His accuser and her witnesses boycotted the hearing because the hearing officer was a Florida football booster.
If those weren’t enough red flags, he tested positive for drugs at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
In between workouts Saturday at the Browns’ minicamp in Berea, Ohio, Callaway took responsibility for past mistakes.
“I had a diluted sample,” Callaway told ESPN of his positive drug test in February. “I didn’t intentionally do it, but I take responsibility for my test. That was a wake-up call, but like I’ve said, day by day I’m still getting better as a person, as a player, as a man, as a father. I’ve got a daughter. She’s going to be 3 months old next week.”
Callaway’s talent isn’t in question. Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, tweeted, “So much ability and talent with Antonio Callaway. If he stays out of trouble (HUGE if), that could be a home run pick for the #Browns.”
Rob Rang, agreed with his NFLDraftScout.com colleague.
“John Dorsey drafted Tyreek Hill in KC and takes a similar gamble on Antonio Callaway. Could wind up being one of the steals of this draft. Easily a first round talent in the 4th. That’s how you win the draft. #Browns #NFLDraft”
For his part, Callaway said he is a changed man.
“I was young, that’s all. Immature,” Callaway told ESPN. “I was just living in the moment. I knew I had to grow and learn from my mistakes. When I got suspended, I didn’t think it would cost me the NFL. I just knew that it would hurt. Because I know my talent. I’m pretty good at football.”
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown also is pretty good at football. The Browns’ nemesis has been mentoring Callaway in recent weeks. Both are from Miami and Brown was at Callaway’s draft party.
“He has a special affinity for the kids that are from here,” Callaway’s agent, Malki Kaha, told profootballtalk,com. “He’s showing him not only what it takes to be a pro, but be one of the best.”
And Callaway seems to be listening.
“Basically, he’s just been telling me I’ve got too much talent to let it go to waste,” Callaway said of Brown. “Where we’re from in Miami, Florida, a lot of people barely make it out. I’m one of the few to.”