From fishing boat to football star: 3rd string ball carrier is Cleveland Browns hero after “exceptional” night

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Denver Broncos inside linebacker Justin Strnad # 40 tackles Cleveland Browns running back Ernest Johnson # 30 in the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 21, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Three years ago, D’Ernest Johnson was not in the NFL. He worked on a fishing boat to pay the bills.

Three days ago, no one had heard of him.

But Thursday night, the 3rd string ball carrier had his chance in prime time.

“You could tell after this game that he was waiting for this moment,” said former Cleveland Browns backer Greg Pruitt.

“We might have lost this game if it weren’t for the performance we got from him.”

One night when stars and starters were sitting on the sidelines, a man who waited a long time for his shot finally got it. Johnson ran for 146 yards and a touchdown in the Cleveland Browns (4-3) 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos (3-4) on Thursday.

“Coming from a fishing boat, I always dreamed of playing in the NFL. Even playing in the AAF I always dreamed of playing here in the league, ”Johnson said after the game. “Being able to be part of this team is a blessing. It is always a dream come true to be able to be here. Being able to start and come here and help the team win is the best feeling. “

Cleveland fans may have been feeling a bit depressed, missing running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and quarterback Baker Mayfield. But in the locker room, that was not the story.

“Basically they told me to be just me. Don’t change a thing and just be me. Keep doing what I’m doing and don’t change a thing, ”Johnson said.

For a player like Johnson, who may have been considered an underdog, there is no better fit than a team like the Browns.

“We thought we had two of the best (the running backs),” said Pruitt. “We could have three of the best. “

When Johnson reached the end zone, he wasn’t convinced how far he had come.

“I wanted to party, but I didn’t know what to do. I just screamed because it’s been a long trip, man. To get your first start and get 100 yards and your first touchdown, it’s nothing but God, ”he said.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski celebrated Johnson’s night after the win.

“D’Ernest Johnson is a warrior and a great teammate to me. What he fought during his career, then to have an evening like this and to finish as he did on this descent, I thought it was just exceptional ”, Stefanski said.

Veteran quarterback Case Keenum, who handled things on the pitch while quarterback Baker Mayfield was on the sidelines, praised Johnson after the game, calling him a guy “than the locker room. and everyone loves “.

“Just a good person overall… [to] come here and have an amazing night like this and do some great plays for us on a national stage, ”Keenum said.

Johnson and the Browns will compete in the next division with the Pittsburg Steelers (3-3) on October 31.

Johnson’s advice? Trust the process.

“You have to trust the process no matter what you’re going through. You have to believe in yourself and trust God.


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