BEREA, Ohio (AP)Browns rookie Cade York’s first experience kicking inside FirstEnergy Stadium came on a clear, calm, picture postcard kind of day.
Phil Dawson warned him it’s rarely so idyllic.
”He just mentioned that there are going to be days that are tough,” said York, who called Dawson, the popular, longtime Cleveland kicker, shortly after the Browns selected him in the fourth round of the recent NFL draft.
During their 40-minute conversation – ”we talked about a lot,” York said – the confident 21-year-old got educated by Dawson on the Browns, Cleveland’s football passion and the city’s unpredictable weather.
Not only was Dawson an incredibly accurate kicker, but he became something of an amateur meteorologist during his 14 seasons (1999-2012) with the Browns.
Through trial and error he learned to read the tricky winds off Lake Erie, famously making a field goal against Buffalo during blizzard-like conditions by aiming at the corner pylon in the end zone to account for the gusts.
On his first day in Cleveland, York made sure he got in some kicks – even if the conditions were pristine.
”It was pretty nice,” York said. ”Nicer than most games at LSU, honestly, so excited to see what it’s like when it’s windy.”
The Browns and their fans are excited about York, whose powerful leg (he made 15 of 19 field goals over 50 yards) and penchant for making clutch kicks made him irresistible for a team that has had major special teams issues in recent years.
Last season, Chase McLaughlin started well but stumbled down the stretch with some misses costing Cleveland possible wins during a dismal 8-9 season. So when his turn came around to pick in the fourth round, Browns general manager Andrew Berry snatched York, the highest kicker selected in the draft since 2016.
York is a relative newcomer to kicking. He played soccer in high school – ”center back that could kick the ball pretty hard, and had a good shot” – but a strong performance during a summer kicking camp brought interest from several college programs and opened his eyes to a new future.
”I realized that wow, I got a full ride in football or a 50% scholarship to some private school that’s still going to cost $30,000,” he said with a chuckle. ”So took the football option and haven’t looked back since.”
York was a star in three seasons at LSU, making 54 of 66 field-goal tries and 164 of 168 extra points. A self-described perfectionist, York also appealed to the Browns after they learned about his mental toughness.
York has learned to accept there will be misses along with the makes.
”You might have one bad kick, it doesn’t mean that everything else is bad,” he said. ”It’s just something was off on that one. There’s a part of it where you just have to have fun with it and you know that what you’re doing out there on Sundays — I almost said Saturdays — on Sundays.
”It’s literally the exact same thing you do every time, it’s just people in the stands and a few 300-pound guys running at you.”
The Browns cut McLaughlin shortly after drafting York, who won’t have any competition in camp except himself. Coach Kevin Stefanski said the idea was to give York as many reps as possible.
”You’re trying to maximize every moment you have,” said Stefanski, who was pleased to hear York had spoken to Dawson. ”You can’t kick every day. What are you doing on those off times? You’re studying tape with the coaches, you’re looking at what you can do better and you’re working on your body.
”He’s going to make sure every minute counts.”
York said Dawson told him that Cleveland will have his back – so long as the ball stays between the uprights.
”He talked about how Cleveland can be either an amazing place to play or a hard place to play if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, and how you basically gotta block it out because everyone has bad days,” York said. ”Even Phil had bad days. So you gotta just play to the best of your ability and not worry too much about the fans.
”But it’s also a great place to play, just like college. Because Baton Rouge if I wasn’t doing well they were going to let me know.”
NOTES: With three draft picks from Oklahoma, the Browns are at least tinted in crimson and cream. ”The Cleveland Sooners,” said defensive end Isaiah Thomas, picked along with college teammates Perrion Winfrey and Michael Woods II.
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