He wasn’t supposed to be there—not anywhere near THERE. In this case, “there” means the end zone at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland.
But there he was after an electrifying 86-yard punt return for the Browns in their 30-10 preseason-opening victory over the Washington Redskins:
If you’re wondering what would cause an entire pro football team to clear the bench and run on the field to celebrate a touchdown during pre-season, then you’re probably not familiar with Sheehy-Guiseppi’s story.
Last season, the Browns’ sentimental favorite was Devon Cajuste, the undersized, hard-working tight end, whose story was captured on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
But Sheehy-Guiseppi has raised the bar on the against-all-odds fairy tale. Unlike Cajuste, who played big-time college football at Stanford, Sheehy-Guiseppi comes from the junior college ranks where he ran track at Mesa (Arizona) Community College and played two seasons of football at Phoenix College solely as a return specialist.
Sheehy-Guiseppi, who the Browns list as a 5-foot-ll, 181-pound wide receiver, earned NJCAA All-American status as a returner, and that seemed to be the highest point of his athletic career. But the 24-year-old from Traverse City, Michigan, by way of Lake Havasu, Arizona, didn’t want to believe he was finished.
His journey included literally living inside a 24-hour fitness center and then talking his way into a tryout with the Browns during an April workout in Miami where he approached Browns vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith. Sheehy-Guiseppi ran a 4.38 in the 40-Yard Dash, enough to catch Highsmith’s eye and invite the young man to Cleveland as a training camp long shot.
With his incredible story thus far, Sheehy-Guiseppi has become a fan favorite at Browns’ training camp sessions. In his first live game action on Thursday night, he didn’t disappoint, showing off his rare speed on the long punt return TD. After the game, head coach Freddie Kitchens singled out the rookie returner for his amazing play.
Despite his initial performance, Sheehy-Guiseppi (like Cajuste before him, who was cut from the team after the final preseason game) remains a long shot. The Browns, with star wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry being backed up by up-and-coming playmakers Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, Derrick Willies and now Jaelen Strong, are stacked at the position. It will be tough for Sheehy-Guiseppi, who was only a returner and not a true WR in college, to carve out a spot on the roster.
But Sheehy-Guiseppi never says “never,” and he’s defied all the odds so far. Stay tuned.