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Storybook journey for Browns’ pick

05/11/2014, 12:00am EDT
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cornerback’s family fled from Haiti

BEREA, Ohio — From war-torn Haiti to Missouri to Cleveland.

Pierre Desir's path to the NFL is a one-of-a-kind journey.

Sticking to their draft strategy of taking tough, athletic players despite an apparent need for a wide receiver, the Browns selected Desir, a cornerback from tiny Lindenwood, on Saturday in the fourth round.

Desir's unlikely story reads like a Hollywood screenplay. He and his family fled Haiti when he was 4, and the emigrants moved from home to home during his childhood. A soccer player who found football by accident, he became a father when he was 16, got passed over by major schools recruiting him because of poor test scores, enrolled at Washburn, transferred, and then dominated at the Division II level for his Missouri college.

Along the way, he got married and had a second child. There were struggles, disappointments, and, finally, reward.

The Browns made his dreams come true.

"It brings a lot of emotions to the draft because of my family, my wife, and my daughters, and everyone who's been through this process with me," he said on a teleconference. "It brings a lot of added emotions. We are just very excited. We can't wait for the next step here in our lives to begin."

Desir, who had 25 career interceptions at Lindenwood, was taken with overall No. 127 pick. The Browns traded their seventh-round pick — No. 218 — to Baltimore for a sixth-rounder in 2015.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Desir is the second cornerback taken by Cleveland, which selected Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert at No. 8. Both are tall and fast, enabling them to be physical with receivers and blockers. They can also run with smaller players if needed and go into the air to challenge passes.

Desir noted the NFL's trend toward taller cornerbacks.

"From watching the Super Bowl, the Seahawks had a lot of tall corners," he said. "I think for me going into the draft, it was a great time just because of how successful they were. In the NFL, now the receivers are getting a lot bigger, so I think the teams are trending toward that way. It was a great time for me to go into the draft."

Although he played at a smaller school, the Browns were confident Desir could have success against players from major programs. Their beliefs were confirmed when Desir flashed his talent during workouts at the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.

The Browns were initially drawn to Desir because of his skills on the field. But as they got to know him as a person, they became more convinced he was someone they needed.

"When you have a guy from a small school and the cards are stacked against him, one thing you do look for are those 'make it' intangibles or reasons why you would think that if we take a shot on this guy, this guy will succeed," said Browns scout Chisom Opara. "In talking to the coaches there and in talking to the support staff there, and then meeting the kid at the all-star game, this kid seems like he's wired the right way for success."

The Browns did not take a wide receiver despite a report that Pro Bowler Josh Gordon, who led the NFL in yards receiving last season, is facing a one-year suspension after allegedly failing a drug test.

General manager Ray Farmer said he's waiting for clarity from the league before he can comment on Gordon's situation.

The timing of Gordon's possible ban was unfortunate as it overshadowed the Browns welcoming quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was taken with the No. 22 pick on Thursday night. Manziel has already created a buzz in Cleveland. The Browns sold 2,300 season tickets on Friday as Manziel's arrival has helped bring relevance to a long-suffering franchise.

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