BEREA, Ohio - It is a few minutes after practice, and Miguel Maysonet sits on a bench overlooking the sprawling practice field at the Browns' training complex, talking hopefully about calling this place home for his NFL career.
The former Stony Brook star knows it won't be easy, not with a glut of running backs in training camp, and not with blue chip tailback Trent Richardson atop the depth chart. But Maysonet has come this far after a terrific career with the Seawolves, so the dream lives on for Riverhead's favorite son.
"I'm a guy from Stony Brook, and some people look down on it because of the competition we played," Maysonet said. "But I'm here for a reason, because they saw something in me. So I'm excited to show them what I can do."
Maysonet's fledgling NFL career has already taken some unusual turns, and it remains to be seen whether he'll be with the Browns once training camp ends. Maysonet had hoped to be drafted in the mid- to lower rounds, but he was not selected. The Eagles signed Maysonet to a rookie free-agent deal, but even those plans fizzled early. Philly released Maysonet a few days after a rookie mini-camp, preferring to go with Cowboys veteran free agent Felix Jones instead.
"I was out with my buddies playing golf, and I was going to report the very next week," Maysonet said. "[The Eagles] called me and said they signed another running back and that they were going to release me."
Confused? Yes. Disappointed? Absolutely. But Maysonet now sees the move as a blessing, because he thinks Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner's system fits him much better than Eagles coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense.
"I like the offense here a lot better than what Philly ran," he said. "It's good for a running back . . . real good. We do a lot of 'downhill' stuff and run out of the I formation with a fullback, not east-west stuff like in Philly. There's a lot of power runs, and the backs get out on some [pass] routes. I'm excited about that."
Now it's a matter of getting some chances, which are few and far between for the moment. Buried on the depth chart, he gets few practice reps because of all the running backs ahead of him. Besides, everyone knows Richardson, the second-year tailback out of Alabama, is the focal point of the offense. For now, Maysonet's proving ground is individual drills.
"It's different, coming from getting all the reps back in college to here, where you start off at the bottom," said Maysonet, who rushed for 1,964 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, one of the most prolific seasons ever in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and a performance that attracted plenty of attention from NFL scouts. "You just have to keep working, stay positive with the whole situation of not getting reps. It's good. With all the guys ahead of me, I have to bide my time and be prepared when the chance does come."
But Maysonet has the unique opportunity to watch and learn from one of the NFL's most gifted backs. Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, rushed for 950 yards as a rookie and is aiming for a breakout season this year.
"Being around Trent is amazing," Maysonet said. "I go from playing college ball and watching him in the NFL to actually being next to him as a running back. I've learned a lot of things from him. For Trent's size, he has exceptional speed, and he makes some cuts that make you say, 'Wow.' "
Maysonet knows he's not in the same class as Richardson, but he does believe he deserves to be at this level, despite the meteoric leap in competition from his days at Stony Brook. He saw just how different things are at this level the first day he walked onto the practice field. And that was even before practice started.
"I've never experienced walking out on the practice field and seeing 3,000 people just sitting there ready to watch you," he said. "When I was at Stony Brook, we'd have maybe two people in the stands . . . if that. So when I saw all the fans just hanging out, it was mind-blowing. But it was a great feeling to be able to experience that."
Now he's ready to experience what it's like to walk out onto the field in front of nearly 70,000 people. If he can make it to game day in September, then Maysonet's dream come true.