BEREA, Ohio — Barkevious Mingo’s mom wouldn’t let him play football until his junior year in high school. She was afraid her little boy would get hurt.
She had nothing to fear.
He was the one causing pain.
After finally relenting and watching him play, Barbara Johnson accepted that her son belonged on a field in a helmet and shoulder pads. And now, she’s not worried about him playing linebacker for the Cleveland Browns.
“He can hold his own,” she said. “I’ve seen what he can do. He likes to eat quarterbacks.”
Needing an outside pass rusher to devour QBs in their new 3-4 alignment, the Browns drafted the LSU junior with the No. 6 overall pick in Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft. Wearing a Browns cap and wide smile, Mingo made a strong first impression on Friday when he was introduced as Cleveland’s newest player.
Mingo, who was accompanied by his mom and girlfriend, posed for photographs with first-year Browns coach Rob Chudzinski before the likable kid everyone calls “KeKe” sat at the dais and answering questions.
He’ll wear No. 51. Any significance?
“It was the closest to 49 that I could get,” he said, referring to his number at LSU.
Mingo has no concerns about making the switch from a defensive end in the SEC to a linebacker in the NFL. He’s 6-foot-4 but appears a little lighter than the 237 pounds he claims to weigh. Mingo has heard others say he needs to beef up, but he’s confident he’s where he needs to be weight-wise.
“I think I can play at this weight right here,” he said. “A lot of people have been telling me you need to be heavier to be in the NFL, ‘you’ve got to be 20 pounds heavier.’ I actually played lighter some years in my college career, and I did absolutely fine. I weigh more than I did in college, and I don’t think it’ll be too much of an adjustment to make.”
Mingo’s selection was the first by Cleveland’s new regime, which used its third-round pick to take San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden. The Browns didn’t have a second-round pick, forfeiting it when they selected wide receiver Josh Gordon in last year’s supplemental draft.
Though just 5-foot-9, McFadden could start on the opposite side from Joe Haden, the Browns’ top defensive player. McFadden said his smallish size won’t be an issue.
“I don’t look at it as a problem,” he said. “I’m a competitor.”
McFadden had three interceptions and 12 pass breakups as a senior, and returned two picks for touchdowns. He was stunned to be selected by the Browns.
“I didn’t really speak to the Browns,” McFadden said on a conference call. “This was a big surprise. I really didn’t talk to them at all.”
McFadden’s father, Leon Sr., was a professional baseball player. He played 62 games for the Houston Astros from 1968-70, but never pushed his son toward his sport.
As for Mingo, the Browns fell hard for Mingo’s athleticism, explosiveness off the ball, and ability to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. They were also swayed by his work ethic, confidence, and an engaging personality. He’s very comfortable in his own skin.
Mingo grew up in a basketball-loving, hoops-playing family. It was all about the court because Barbara wouldn’t let Barkevious or any of his four brothers put on a helmet.
“I thought they were going to get hurt,” she said. “They were to ride their bicycles, that was the only injury they were to get. So he kind of snuck around and practiced and played.”
She had no idea he was a star until a co-worker convinced her to attend one of Mingo’s games.
“He said, ‘Barbara, you need to go see him play. He’s good,’” she said. “I said, ‘I’m not going, I’m going to see him get hurt.’ He said, ‘He’s not going to get hurt, he’s knocking everybody else down.”
Once she finally saw her son play, she believed.
“I was sitting with my face covered the whole game because he was knocking everybody down. I said, ‘Oh, my God, he’s going to hurt somebody else’s child. He needs to stop.’ I’m like, ‘KeKe, stop that.’ I went back to work and said, ‘You’re right, he’s not getting hurt, he’s hurting everybody else’s child.’”
Browns trade for Bess
After days of speculation, the Browns finally pulled off a trade to acquire veteran wide receiver Davone Bess from the Miami Dolphins.
Shortly after drafting in the third round Friday night, Browns general manager Michael Lombardi said the Bess deal was done, pending the veteran passing a physical today. Lombardi said the team has also discussed signing Bess to a three-year contract extension.
To get Bess, the Browns traded their fourth-round pick (No. 104) and fifth-round pick (No. 164) to the Dolphins for Miami’s fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a seventh-rounder (No. 217).
Bess spent five seasons with Miami, catching at least 50 passes each season. He had 61 receptions for 778 yards and one touchdown in 13 games last season.