April 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
40°F

Haden loves Cleveland

BEREA — Joe Haden had been a member of the Browns for less than 24 hours, but he already sounded like a lifelong Clevelander.

“Oh my goodness, I love LeBron,” Haden said Friday at his introductory news conference. “Now he can’t go anywhere because it might break my heart.

“I’m trying to figure out how to get in touch with him and text him or something and take him out to eat and make sure he doesn’t leave.”

Browns general manager Tom Heckert revealed Haden’s adoration for Cavaliers superstar LeBron James after taking the Florida cornerback with the No. 7 pick Thursday. Haden was asked about it Friday, and was downright giddy. He looked down, smiled and needed to catch his breath before he could talk about James.

Haden said he started following James, who will be a free agent after the playoffs, during his Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary days.

“I love his game and his personality,” Haden said. “He’s a people person, making people laugh on the sideline and having a good time. I feel that’s what I like to do.

“I’m outgoing, funny, just like to have a good time. I can’t stand being around people that try to bring me down. I try to sign every autograph, I try to take pictures with everybody. I just feel like I’m blessed.”

Haden started at point guard at Friendly High School in Fort Washington, Md., winning two state championships. He could dunk as a freshman.

“Oh, I could dunk. I could windmill as a matter of fact,” he said. “I was pretty good at basketball.”

Haden will sign a contract worth about $25 million guaranteed, but isn’t sure he wants to spend any on Cavaliers season tickets.

“I was hoping LeBron could hook me up so I don’t have to buy ’em,” he said. “I’ll try to be courtside like Jay-Z.”

Haden was all smiles, as he donned a white Browns baseball cap to go with his black suit, black shirt, black tie and black earrings.

“I still don’t believe I’m with the Browns,” he said.

Haden didn’t allow a touchdown pass during his three years and 40 starts at Florida. He was a unanimous All-American selection in 2009 and totaled eight interceptions, 34 pass breakups, 218 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his career.

Haden’s resume is even more impressive considering he never played cornerback until he stepped foot on the Gainesville campus. He was recruited by the Gators as an athlete, and turned down offers to play quarterback at Ohio State, Virginia and Michigan.

“This (Tim) Tebow dude is always involved in everything,” Haden joked about the former Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 25 pick to the Broncos on Thursday. “When I came to Florida I was going to be a quarterback, but Tebow was there and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“I just wanted to get on the field.”

President Mike Holmgren presented Haden with a Browns jersey with his name on the back.

“He’s one of the great young men I’ve ever had the privilege of studying and meeting,” Holmgren said. “I really believe we hit a home run. This young guy was in our sights from awhile ago.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.